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27th October Journal Column


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

It’s been one year since Mark Farmer’s report ‘Modernise or Die’ was released. Farmer tackled the report with no holds barred and it was intended to shock the industry and government, giving an open and honest review of where the industry was at and although it was hard to hear, it was exactly what was needed.

The report looked at the constraints that limit housebuilding and infrastructure development. He identified ten symptoms that have contributed to the downfall of the industry over the years including; low productivity; a dysfunctional training, funding and delivery model; workforce size and demographics and a lack of collaboration.

He called for a reform to address the skills crisis, pointing out that 700,000 new workers will be needed in five years to replace those retiring. The report also mentioned the lack of training in construction and now one year on, ‘T-Levels’ – new technical qualifications, have just been announced. The Post-16 Skills Plan wants each student to get three months of work experience, to ensure young people have hands-on experience in the industry and employers have better access to skilled workers – definitely a move in the right direction. The Post-16 Skills Plan and the implementation of T-levels provides a real opportunity to ensure all young people leaving Further Education have the same base level of skills, experience and knowledge.

Since the report was published, a lot has changed in emerging housing policy development that has increased recognition of the role of skills and construction modernisation. The housing white paper, highlighted two main facts that could be to blame for the state of the housing market –there aren’t enough local authorities planning for the homes needed and house building is simply too slow. The government seem determined to build a stronger, fairer Britain, breaking down barriers to progress by making the big, difficult decisions that are right for Britain in the long term. Sadiq Khan’s housing strategy also recognised that in order to meet the demand for new homes (London needs 50,000 new homes every year for the next 25 years) we require a more diverse and dynamic housebuilding industry. 

Farmer succeeded in shocking the industry into making a change, we’ve recognised what needs to be done and I personally think we’ve come a long way in just the past year but there’s still a lot of hard work ahead of us, as businesses and as an industry as a whole. As Farmer said: “If we are to move to a different place, to where we need to be, we must accept that there will be winners and losers, not everyone will be successful. That is what the Modernise or Die challenge is all about.”

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.

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