BESA President predicts five year transformation for the industry

BESA, Tim Hopkinson, modern, Grenfell Tower, Carillion, payment practices, Brexit, professional standards, technical standards, competence, compliance, training, skills
Tim Hopkinson

Speaking at the BESA Annual President’s Lunch on 26th September, Hopkinson said: “We are seeing the birth of a new era where traditional methods are under scrutiny and where our professional credibility is more important than ever before.

Over the next two to five years, we will witness the emergence of an industry that embraces modern methods of construction; modern ways of working; and future technologies– creating a new culture and a new image for the building engineering services sector.”

Hopkinson pointed to the incidents of the last 18 months that have presented the industry with significant challenges: the aftermath of the Grenfell Tower tragedy; the controversy around Carillion and payment practices; business uncertainty over Brexit; and the growing resource and skills problem facing employers.

In spite of these issues, the BESA president regards them as potentially transformative: “They are converging to bring about a complete transformation of our industry and its professions,” he said, adding: “Transformation is inevitable because the UK construction industry simply cannot deliver everything competently in a world of increasing opportunities, demands for higher standards and a shrinking pool of resource and talent.”

One outcome of these changes is that the industry has been under a lot of scrutiny. Professional standards and credibility will play an important part in establishing confidence with clients.

The Association will have an important role to play in achieving this: “BESA will be called upon increasingly to set new technical standards and to help companies provide evidence of their competence and compliance. The Association will be crucial in helping companies transition to new ways of working and in helping them comply with both legislation and more onerous client requirements.”

The requirement for new people to enter the industry is pressing. EngineeringUK already forecast that the country will need 1.8 million new engineers across all fields by 2025. The Chartered Institute of Building has also recently estimated that construction needs 150,000 new recruits by 2021, simply to keep pace with current demand. This is being driven by projects such as HS2, the third Heathrow runway and new nuclear power plants.

Hopkinson also said that Brexit will force more focus on the UK workforce for the sector: “In the past, employers’ kneejerk reaction would have been to flood projects with labour carrying varying types and levels of qualifications in a bid to deliver on time. That may no longer be an option from next March and it could well be that this is one of the long-term benefits of Brexit.”

He went on to point out that the industry could be in a better position to ensure that qualifications for the industry could be standardised – ensuring that everyone has completed the right training and has appropriate skills. Rather than damaging the industry in the long-term, its current challenges should be the driver to better practices.

“So, in effect, the Hackitt Review has turned the spotlight on to compliance and competence – and Brexit has reinforced the need for developing a proper strategy to address them and our lack of manpower will fuel the offsite revolution.”

Click here to see the BESA Column for more from Tim Hopkinson; and click here for information on this year’s BESA Conference.

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