Chartered Institute of Building Magazine of the Chartered Institute of Building

Opinion

Putting construction front and centre of the economic recovery

28 September 2020 | By Caroline Gumble

The CIOB is working hard to ensure that construction’s voice is heard loud and clear as the government looks at ways to secure a post-pandemic recovery, says Caroline Gumble

As the construction sector picks itself up and dusts itself off following the coronavirus lockdown, efforts are underway to give the wider economy a shot in the arm.

One such initiative is the UK Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Committee’s inquiry on post-pandemic economic growth, looking at the options available in trying to secure economic recovery.

The CIOB has submitted a response. Our full submission runs to 12 pages but here are some of the key issues.

Making the case for a greener, more carbon neutral economy, we see a big opportunity for construction if government provides real focus on upgrading existing housing stock through repair, maintenance and improvement (RMI). This work is environmentally, socially and economically valuable. It can serve to improve the health and wellbeing of residents and have a positive impact at local level –  work grounded in local supply chains, making it ideal to maximise employment within our sector, support regional growth and provide opportunities for training and retraining in low-carbon skills.

Training and education are key. The financial crisis of just over a decade ago devastated the construction workforce, with some 400,000 people losing their jobs across the sector. The sector’s capacity has slowly but steadily been restored in the intervening years, but not completely. We need to retain our existing workforce and recruit new entrants. Improving access to, and the quality of, education and training is needed to ensure a pipeline of qualified individuals committed to careers in construction. We would like to see the government consult with the sector to develop a labour market that is flexible, responsive and able to adapt to the industry’s future needs.

We also want the government to consider ways in which, as a key industry client, it can support more efficient and effective business models. Around 99% of businesses in our sector are SMEs. Any late payment to businesses down the supply chain has significant consequences. Combined with the consequences of lockdown, many businesses are now at risk. The failure of a single business can delay entire project pipelines.

The CIOB will, of course, work with the government and any other industry partners to push these initiatives forward but we first need government to commit to putting our industry where it should be – front and centre as a key part of the economic recovery.

Caroline Gumble is chief executive of the CIOB