We need more new skills
What’s clear for construction, and the building finishes and interiors sector, is that while the long-term signs of continuing recovery are positive, the government must succeed in its aim to create thousands of apprenticeships over the lifetime of this Parliament if it is to solve the skills crisis and help to deliver ambitious targets for not only new housing but also ambitious growth in commercial activity.
Centre stage for the new government in its new legislative programme are both apprenticeships and housing. And without the necessary resources, the 200,000 Starter Homes that the government wants built over the next five years quite simply won’t get out of the ground unless we tackle the construction skills crisis.
Anecdotal evidence suggests that around half of small local contractors are struggling to hire key trades. This month’s focus on the joinery sector reinforces the challenges of resources that finishing and interiors specialists still face. The need to find appropriate skills is a stark reminder of how the government’s ambitions to build more new homes and boost commercial activity could be scuttled by a lack of skilled tradesmen.
As the construction industry accounts for around seven per cent of GDP, it means that the construction industry should probably be delivering some 200,000 of the three million apprenticeships the government is saying it will create. Assuming that the finishes and interiors sector accounts for say five per cent of construction output, then the sector will need to deliver some 10,000 apprentices over the next five years. Balance this against the results of last year’s Interiors Sector Training Review which found fewer than 300 apprenticeships each year were being completed. The sector faces a major challenge to up its game.
Specialist contractors will also be keen to ensure that the Enterprise Bill succeeds and finally puts a strong nail in the coffin of late payment. Poor payment practices have plagued the construction industry for too long and perhaps widening the powers for representative bodies to act on behalf of their members to challenge grossly unfair payment terms will go some way to addressing this. Despite all of these moves, I’m still at a loss as to what’s wrong with the principle of being paid on time?
Adrian JG Marsh
Editor of www.specfinish.co.uk and director at Campbell Marsh