The improving economy brings threats as well as opportunities
With the challenges that faced construction in 2013, the industry will certainly be hoping that 2014 will turn out to be a more prosperous year. The early signs are that we are going in the right direction but there’s no room for complacency.
We mustn’t, for instance, fall into the trap of assuming that such growth is spread consistently across the country. The picture is extremely uneven and while some firms are finding things easier, others are struggling for their existence.
As an industry, we need to be trailblazers for growth, working together to take forward the government’s new approach to occupational standards and apprenticeships
On the plus side, the government’s announcement that £100bn is to be invested in infrastructure projects will have a major part to play in revitalising our industry and underlines our position as a major contributor to economic growth as recognised in the Industrial Strategy.
As an industry, we need to be trailblazers for growth, working together to take forward the government’s new approach to occupational standards and apprenticeships. By working together, we can drive the investment in skills and training that a growing construction sector will require.
Our Joint Investment Strategy has been introduced to help support the continual growth in local communities that is needed. In London as well as in eight core cities – Sheffield, Birmingham, Manchester, Bristol, Nottingham, Leeds, Liverpool and Newcastle – £5m of already-committed employer money will be matched by £5m of funds from local public sector bodies. This approach will help businesses to work directly with policy makers at city councils to address the skills needs of the industry - locally.
A great deal of work will be needed to nurture and reap the benefits of the upturn. It strikes me that despite the challenges that lie ahead, we can be cautiously optimistic but unless we do more to attract high quality entrants to the industry and make sure that the existing workforce has the skills we need, the opportunities that are beginning to appear will go begging. Crucially, we don’t want to see a repeat of the problems of the previous upturn where firms continued to fail because they hadn’t invested in the future and were unable to take on the new work as it became available.
It is clear that work is being done to help construction on the road to recovery but the fact of the matter remains – it will be up to the industry itself to make sure that it is ready.
William Burton is interim chief executive of the CITB