11th March Journal Column

By Catriona Lingwood, Chief Executive of Constructing Excellence in the North East

Towards the end of last year a new north east body was formed to champion the interests of SME companies within the construction sector, with the aim of stemming the tide of public sector contracts leaving the region to national firms.
Construction Alliance North East (CAN) comprises of the Northern Counties Builders Federation (NCBF), Federation of Master Builders (FMB), National Federation of Builders (NFB) and the Civil Engineering Contractors Association (CECA) and, after five months of being in operation, is beginning to make significant progress.

Northern Powerhouse Minister, James Wharton MP marked the official launch of CAN, at the Ramside Hall Hotel, Durham this morning, with the event being attended by key decision makers from over 50 construction contracting companies and small, privately owned construction-related businesses, regional local authorities and other public sector bodies.

The impact of lean times faced by local companies during the recession is still evident across the industry – most notably with the on-going skills shortage. When companies are not confident about their future, or unclear about where their next contract is coming from, it doesn’t give them the confidence required to take on the additional cost of training apprentices or investing in training for existing staff, which is one of the things needed to make skills shortages a thing of the past.

Let’s hope that the Northern Powerhouse will provide a platform for demonstrating the benefits of using a regional workforce, we have many highly skilled and experienced industry workers within the region and it is time they were given the chance to demonstrate their talents once again.
Based on data provided by CAN, they represent 100,000 people employed by the four member organisations. With the backing of such big organisations, including Constructing Excellence in the North East, CAN has the opportunity and support to improve performance and shift perceptions to form a powerful voice for change.

CAN chair, Jeff Alexander is passionate about promoting the benefits of local supply chain and seeks to demonstrate to central government the talent and appetite for success that lies at the heart of our region’s industry. He says that CAN aren’t asking to have work handed to members on a plate – they merely want the chance to compete for regional contracts.
CAN aims to be a power for good in reforming procurement methods within the north east construction industry, let’s hope that this is the start of a new era for the industry and CAN’s message to central government is transmitted loud and clear.