The top firms in the industry have been through this process many times before
Bookshops, libraries and online stores are well stocked with advice and research on the key ingredients that deliver business success.
While I certainly haven’t worked through everything that’s available from the pundits, I wouldn’t mind betting that one of the ‘key ingredients’ is the ability to reinvent the business to meet changing demand and exploit new opportunities.
You need look no further than the ‘top ten’ construction industry leaders to see the success and longevity that reinvention can bring. The majority of the ‘top ten’ can trace their roots back to the nineteenth century and collectively they have a turnover of over £30 billion a year.
By working together we can make sure that skills needs are identified and addressed promptly this time round and we turn 2014 into the prosperous year we all want it to be
There are times when you know how you want to reinvent your business – however big, however small - but will need support from elsewhere to enable it to happen.
This is where construction really comes into its own. The industry has a commitment to ‘the greater good’. There is a shared agenda for developing best practice, exploiting new approaches and ensuring that there’s a skilled workforce to deliver the goods.
This is as true now as it was 50 years ago when the CITB was set up by government to ‘deliver the managers and supervisors that the industry needs’.
It was a leap of faith for the industry to embrace the CITB concept and a joined up, industry led, approach to skills issues. But it has, I believe, stood the test of time.
If a business is to have the skilled workforce it needs, when it needs it, there has to be planning in advance and investment in attracting talent into the business and giving skills development high priority.
In recent years, investing in the the workforce has tended to be down the list of priorities. But, with growth beginning to creep back into the economy, it’s time to promote talent and skills up the business plan agenda again.
Of course, this is easier said than done. At a time when a significant part of the industry is struggling to keep its head above water, finding the time and resource to invest in the future can all too easily feel like one burden too many.
But ignoring the issue isn’t an option. As construction emerged from the previous downturn, the rate of business failures continued to increase because companies lacked the skilled workforce they needed to reinvent themselves and take advantage of the new work as it became available.
So let’s ensure that this recovery is different. By working together we can make sure that skills needs are identified and addressed promptly this time round and we turn 2014 into the prosperous year we all want it to be.
William Burton is interim chief executive of the CITB