Balance for Better – International Womens Day

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

There is a clear move towards embracing inclusion and demolishing stereotypes in the industry. We need people from different personal and professional backgrounds, bringing new and innovative ideas. With the skills shortage at a high, we’re in no position to be looking at anything other than level of skill and potential when recruiting workers.

According to the UK Industry Performance Report, 2017 by Glenigan, only 12% of the industry’s workforce is female, compared to 47% for all sectors nationally. Compared to national averages, women, people with disabilities, the BAME community and those under 24 are under-represented in the construction industry.

To act on this information and their own research, CEOs from 32 of the country’s leading energy and utilities employers have signed up to an industry-wide commitment to attract more diverse and inclusive talent. Amey, Balfour Beatty, Clancy Docwra, Keltbray, Kier and Morrison Utilities and many more have committed to proactively change these statistics and promote their businesses to under-represented talent. Through its work, the Energy & Utilities Skills Partnership and its CEOs will highlight the great work already being done by the sector as well as continuing to drive change through its ongoing commitment to inclusive attraction, recruitment, and development of its workforce. The new agreement is underpinned by five principles that commit to working collaboratively and sharing best practice, while creating an inclusive culture that enables firms to attract, recruit and develop people in a way where progress can be measured and transparent.

Employing around 566,000 people across the UK, the utilities sector will need over 220,000 new recruits to fill its expected skills gap by 2027. The future is exciting – and we are the people privileged enough to build it. I think we can all agree that the best way to do that is with a gender-balanced workforce.

CENE are holding an International Women’s Day, Better for Balance event on Thursday 7 March – a follow up to last year’s Press for Progress event. Join us for an interactive morning, hearing from Eliane Algaard, Northumbrian Water, Owen Goodhead and Sarah Sidey, Ranstad CPE, Kieran Thompson, Cundall and Lily Kitchen from Network Rail who are driving change in the industry. We will look at how you can initiate and support change, meet other people with the same aspirations and hear from organisations already working on their diversity and inclusion strategies. Everyone has a part to play in creating change, so we need men and women to join us to and find out what you can do to help.

If you would like to register for this event, please contact Grace Collinson on 0191 500 7880 or grace@cene.org.uk

Bringing knowledge into the 21st century

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

A survey carried out by the UK’s Construction Knowledge Task Group (CKTG) has found that a third of construction practitioners just don’t have easy access to the knowledge they need. The information is there, they just don’t know how or where to access it. Our industry is knowledge-based and without it, the industry is less productive, less innovative and more likely to make mistakes.

Feedback from 299 practitioners from every part of the industry found almost two fifths did not have easy access to all the knowledge they need to do their job – quite a scary statistic considering how much responsibility our industry has. Practitioners also admitted they use less-trusted knowledge sources more frequently than more-trusted knowledge sources, with web searches and free online resources accounting for almost half of all the knowledge accessed. Less specific, traditional ‘learning’ is not as popular, which does make sense when you consider the way the industry is going. We’re moving away from traditional methods of working, so it’s only right that the way we learn and access information changes too. The industry has embraced the internet, we’re accepting new technologies and BIM is second-nature to many of us now. Data and information are finally there, we just need to make sure that knowledge is just as easily accessible. Ann Bentley, Global Board Director at Rider Levett Bucknall, and Member of the Construction Leadership Council said: “we need to bring knowledge into the 21st century and take a more collaborative and systematic approach to how it is prepared and shared” – and I couldn’t agree more.

The survey, which ran at the end of 2018, was intended to help the CKTG steer its work, improving the way industry knowledge is prepared, accessed and applied. Its members include representatives from right across the industry. They met last month and established three workstreams that will be pursued going forward:

  • How should construction knowledge be ‘tagged’ so that it is easier to identify specific types required by practitioners?
  • Could new search tools be developed to help practitioners find the knowledge they need when they need it?
  • Is it possible to co-ordinate subscriptions, sign up forms, memberships and pay walls and to make them more flexible so that it is easier to access multiple knowledge sources through one search query?

In simple terms, we just need to work out how to make the information more accessible and most importantly, make sure people know how and where to access it and it’s up to The Task Group to make sure this happens going forward. I’m keen to see how things change in the future. They seem to know what the problem is, and I trust that they know what needs to be done to solve it – only time will tell.

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.

Why is prompt payment still an issue?

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

Prompt payment, or the lack of it, is such a big issue in our industry and the collapse of Carillion last year certainly brought it back into the spotlight, for all the wrong reasons. Not only does it cause economic and social damage, but it has really tarnished the reputation of the industry, something we work so hard to build, but I can’t help but think we’re really not helping ourselves.

Tier one contractors are still paying their suppliers much later than agreed and withholding retention monies rightfully owed to the suppliers. It’s especially important that money is paid on time in our industry; on a construction site there could be 20 different trades that participated, and money could be held back because of anyone else in the project chain.

The Prompt Payment Code Compliance Board is a voluntary board that monitors late payments and enforces the Prompt Payment Code, which was introduced in 2008 in an effort by the department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) to establish a set of voluntary principles for firms to ensure their suppliers are paid fairly and on time. The PPC was intended to be a driver for change but it has struggled to have an impact due to a lack of funding and unrealistic expectations – something which needs to be managed to enable it to do its job. Carillion was one of the signatories of the PPC and therefore could have been subject to investigation, but nobody told them about Carillion’s payment record until after it collapsed, and it was too late.

In an ideal world, late payment would no longer be a thing, but while we work at changing how a lot of companies operate, there are things we can be doing to help. The Board have received very few challenges against poor payers in the last few years and we know from statistics that that’s not because there aren’t any cases. In 2016 it received 16 challenges, 25 in 2017 and 21 last year so there is clearly a reluctance in people putting forward challenges and that needs to change.  As we know, small businesses suffer most, with most of them being used as the bank of bigger companies and its usually SMEs that are scared to put forward challenges. Last year, small businesses were collectively owed £14bn in late payments. That’s across all industries, but I bet our industry contributed a lot towards it.

In everyday life you pay for things immediately, whether that be goods or services, and you wouldn’t dream of asking to delay the payment or paying less than what was due, so why should our industry be any different?

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