End of a long year

"There are some years that really do seem longer than others, and 2018 is one of them. Let’s be honest, Brexit is straining everyone’s nerves. Our Annual Survey shows it as top of the list of concerns for businesses in our sector.

However, we have made it this far, and as our review of the year shows, the industry has managed to achieve a great deal in challenging circumstances. New products were introduced to the market, and exciting projects completed. We are still here and still on our feet.

One of the problems of a major issue like Brexit is that it grabs so much of government’s attention. Other issues are unnoticed, their significance shrinking in the heat of a political crisis. It is unfortunate, for example, that the push to finalise the Aldous Bill suffered from delays, given the hard work of the industry associations which developed and promoted it.

But businesses in the construction and building services sectors don’t have the luxury of stopping the world while they deal with one big problem. They must carry on planning for the future with the intent of growing.

Mark Farmer, interviewed by MBStv, told us that now is the time for the industry to move to new methods of working. The industry should modernise because of current challenges, he says, not in spite of them. It’s time to embrace modular methods and prefabrication; in Farmer’s words, to modernise or die.

And if there is a way to move into the future, then ensuring your staff have the right skills has to be top of the list. There has been some practical help with the Apprenticeship Levy being made more accessible to small- and medium-sized businesses, for example. It would be a lost opportunity for those thinking about what comes next if they don’t take government help to take on apprentices and/or train their current staff.

There may even be a moral argument for employing young people now - if those of us in middle age feel the pressure of uncertainty, imagine what it’s like to be 18,19 or 20 years old in the current economic climate. The offer of an apprenticeship, or a first job, to someone in that age group may be the ray of hope that they’re looking for.″

Karen Fletcher

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