Taking on an apprentice for four years remains a significant commitment when pipelines of work are so uncertain

Reports from the Scottish Chambers of Commerce that business confidence is finally improving are welcome. But we shouldn’t lose sight of how much key sectors of the economy have been forced to downsize, and the challenges this creates in building a sustainable recovery. In the construction sector, we’ve seen employment fall by more than a quarter in the space of five years. Commercial construction activity has
almost halved. Housing activity is down 38% and industrial output down by almost a quarter. Between 2008 and 2012, 655 Scottish building firms have gone bust. The industry is fully committed to developing the next generation of workers it needs to deliver long-term sustainable growth. But recruiting someone for a four-year apprenticeship remains a significant commitment when many firms don’t know what work they’ll have on their books six or 12 months from now.

The efforts being made by the Scottish government to prioritise direct capital investment are hugely welcome. Crucially, the public sector now needs to set out a much clearer long-term project pipeline as a consequence of that investment.

Michael Levack, executive director, Scottish Building Federation