Industry image must change this year, says KPMG

Published:  02 January, 2015

This year, the construction industry will need to take further steps to improve its image and address the widening skills gap, according to Richard Threlfall, KPMG’s head of infrastructure, building and construction.

“Many in the industry are nervous about what the General Election will mean for construction, but I am confident we will not see a repeat of the mass cancellation of schemes that took place in 2010,” he said.

“Our main political parties understand the importance of infrastructure investment for driving the UK’s future competitiveness. We estimate that by 2016, the country will be investing £45bn per annum in infrastructure, and the government’s construction pipeline now shows a total of £116bn of spend over nearly 2,000 projects. But that does not mean the industry can relax. It has plenty of challenges, but they are more subtle than five years ago, and more for the industry itself to address.

“As early as April 2015, the delivery of the UK construction pipeline will hit a constraint imposed not by lack of political will or funding but for lack of a sufficiently large and trained workforce. We estimate that by that 150,000 more workers will be needed on site to deliver major projects in London and the South East. The industry is failing to hire sufficiently fast, and is failing to train the workforce it needs in sufficient volume.

“The construction industry continues to struggle to attract both the calibre and the diversity of individuals it needs. Careers advice from schools, parents and peers is too often a cocktail of prejudice and ignorance. But the industry bears much of the blame for failing to proactively sell itself, and project a modern, exciting, fulfilling image of what life in construction involves. Why does this matter? Very simply our country cannot afford to fail to bring more talent into our construction and engineering industries. In 2015, the industry needs to work hard to change this image.”

Mr Threlfall concluded: “As we head into next year, we will have a much more buoyant and competitive market across infrastructure and construction, with a strong pipeline of projects. If the industry can address some of its own weaknesses, the prospects for the year ahead are very bright.”

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