A recent cross-industry advisory panel hosted by UK Construction Week has called for the construction sector to look to off-site manufacturing and pre-fabricated buildings to help overcome the challenges faced by the industry and challenged the government to help fill the skills gap.
Key players attended the event from the architecture, engineering, contracting and housebuilding sectors as the debate discussed the critical issues facing the construction industry – the housing shortage, the skills shortage, diversity and its reputation.
The discussion was kicked off by chair, Marta de Sousa, property developer and Built by Her campaigner, asking how the industry was going to entice the reported 36,000 workers per year to keep up with demands.
David Cowans, Group Chief Executive of Places for People, said that short-termism was a major problem for the industry due to its greater sensitivity to economic forces. This leads to construction workers being the first to face redundancy in the face of a recession.
The significant number of projects being put on hold due of the uncertainty caused by the European referendum was cited as an example of this by Allan Wilén, Economics Director of Glenigan, who echoed Mr Cowans’ words.
Head of Construction at the Cabinet Office, Dr David Hancock, called for the industry to get over its pre-conceptions with regards to off-site manufacturing and pre-fabricated buildings.
A shift to a more computer-controlled factory environment could lead to a more diverse workforce by eliminating the need for heavy lifting according to L&G Homes CEO, Tom Ground.
Dr Diana Montgomery, CEO of the Construction Products Association, concurred and is well placed given the CPA’s remit to point out that the manufacturing industry isn’t suffering from a skills shortage and benefits from a much more diverse workforce due to the different methods of work.
Dr Montgomery said the companies would benefit from growing their own brand and attract workers through this based on their own qualities. This would be much more effective than the construction industry as a whole looking to improve its reputation.
Nathan Garnett, Event Director for UK Construction Week, commented on the event: “Against a backdrop of some seemingly major issues, the feeling was one of optimism, with a general consensus that the time has never been better to drive innovation and change mindsets across the industry.
“And I very much feel that UK Construction Week has a role to play in this. By bringing together leading thinkers and innovators under one roof, we are creating the ideal opportunity to promote all that is great about the industry, showcase the UK as leaders in the construction industry, drive change and to attract new talent. UK Construction Week can be a unifying voice.
“Today’s discussions will feed into our plans, enabling us to create a platform that can be leveraged by the industry as a whole to promote itself and its wider societal contribution.”
UK Construction Week takes place at the Birmingham NEC from 18 – 20 October.