1st December Journal Column

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

Earlier this week, the government announced the long awaited Industrial Strategy white paper. Thankfully, the construction sector was one of the industries chosen to receive a government boost, in the deal planned to boost productivity.

As of recently, I’d say the industry has been in a good position, but there’s always room for improvement and it helps to have the government in your corner. It was announced that the industry will receive £170m worth of government investment, through the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund, to support innovation and improve productivity across the whole sector. The deal has been put in place to ensure more investment in innovation and skills, leading to new, well-paid jobs and maximising its export potential. It will also reduce the environmental impact, improve the efficiency and reduce whole life cost of new projects and buildings to help build the houses, schools, hospitals and transport projects we desperately need.

The deal, the first of a series that the government intends to negotiate with the industry, contains commitments to work collaboratively in three key areas;

Procuring for Value – The government will work with industry professionals across both public and private sectors to ensure projects are built based on their whole life value, rather than capital cost. This will mean considering all costs associated with the life of a building, from inception to construction, occupation and operation and disposal, which is a much better way of assessing value for money. They will also develop a procurement standard and develop cost and performance benchmarks for assets and contractors.

Industry-led Innovation – There will be commitment to invest in a programme which brings together the construction, digital technology, manufacturing, materials and energy sectors to develop and commercialise digital and offsite manufacturing technologies. This is one that I’m eager to see play out, I’ve been pushing for more attention on digital and technology, it’s definitely the way the world is moving, so it’s important the industry moves with it.

Skills for the Future – Increased investment in skills development and adopting a more strategic approach to recruitment and equipping workers with the skills they will need, will be achieved through a commitment to implement reforms to the Construction Industry Training Board (CITB). The deal will ensure the CITB is more strategic and industry led, enabling the industry to make best use of funding from the Apprenticeship Levy made live in April. 

It’s promising to know that the government have recognised the importance of productivity in the industry. It proves that the government do listen. For so long we’ve been calling for more commitment to infrastructure, skills and more digital solutions, and that’s exactly what we got.

It’s now up to us to ensure the plans laid down are achieved. With the hard-working workforce that I know we have and the government behind us, I don’t see any reason why we can’t achieve them.

For more information on Constructing Excellence in the North East, please contact chief executive, Catriona Lingwood, on 0191 500 7880 or email catriona@cene.org.uk.