CIC Blog

| Filed in Blog, Collaboration
CIC in the North East - Regional answers to problematic industry questions

John Nielsen

Director CK21 Ltd

Regional Chair CIC NE and CIC Nations and Regions Champion

The CIC NE committee is in the process of agreeing a construction strategy for the NE with the regional Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs). As chair I have led this for quite a while and whilst it is coming to fruition it has been quite a slog.

The subject has been the main agenda item of meetings throughout the last year and it has taken a while for us to reach a point of consensus – there are real and deep problems for the construction industry! No surprise there then with all that has occurred!! What has been interesting is what we want to achieve with a regional strategy to deal with these issues and where the best input has come from.

I think we all accept that we have some fundamental issues that have just not been dealt with;

  • Procurement
  • Skills
  • Perception of the construction industry
  • Diversity
  • Modernisation.

If Mark Farmer’s excellent report ‘Modernise or die’ is not a wakeup call along with Grenfell and Carillion then I don’t know what is. However developing a coherent response is proving challenging. Luckily on the NE committee I have representatives from all aspects of the industry including the CITB, the universities, contractors and suppliers.

What was apparent from the start of this process was the confirmation of the disparate nature of the industry. The LEPs and other client organisations simply reiterate the comment ‘who do we speak to when liaising with the construction industry?’ Hence the first action we have set ourselves in the strategy is to create that single point of contact. This will be the regional chair of the CIC NE committee initially with a proviso that we agree a full governance and scope structure in the first couple of years. This person will not be an all-powerful leader but a single point conduit for flow of information/discussion/liaison between the regional industry and the LEPs.

As chair of CIC NE I recently signed the Construction Alliance Northeast (CAN) Charter - http://www.constructionalliancenortheast.co.uk . This is simply local contractors asking for a reasonable opportunity to bid for work with unrealistic prerequisites allowing only major national contractors/organisations removed. This also highlighted what has been a major issue in our discussions – procurement. The consensus here was not the classic ‘cheapest is not always the best’ but a requirement of clients (or anyone procuring) to understand what value is and also include for intelligent procurement. We were really heartened to see the recent ‘Procuring for Value’ report from the CLC in that at last we will look at value properly. Regionally we want to liaise with the LEPs in leading the way forward on what we see as value and looking at alternative procurement routes. Dare I say that the upcoming Brexit and its potential removal of OJEU rules may allow this more easily?

Skills including attracting and retaining people to the industry has always been a problem for us. A lot of this stems from the perception of construction to the wider world;

  • Messy and dangerous site work
  • Not diverse – men only
  • Limited future progression for the individual
  • Confrontational

Whilst there is some truth in the above it is up to ourselves to deal with this. We undertake regional schools careers advisor events where a member of various organisations (RIBA/LI, ICE/IStructE, CIBSE, RICS, RTPI and BIFM are given 12 to 15 minutes to explain what their members do in the industry and how they all interlink. We also have the National Association of Women in Construction present at these events and finish with a regional contractor who has 20 minutes to run through their work and how it all fits together. There is one major point that comes out of this, which is how diverse and interesting our industry can be. We need to get this across urgently to school students but also those that influence – parents. We need to show how developing a trade is as important as sitting in an office designing, all aspects of the industry are open to ALL. The raising of the Industry’s public perception is up to us, and us alone. We need to do this as a single body showing the benefits of the whole industry.

Modern Methods of Construction are an opportunity to develop a trade in an exciting field of construction, as this is a developing market with lots of opportunity for innovation. To a certain extent this can also be used to attract trades and skilled labour to the industry, by helping to dispel the view that construction is messy work out in the elements, MMC typically happens in controlled factory environments.

So by hook and by crook we are actually starting to provide some regional answers to the industries problematic questions!

The CIC regional committees are a great place to start and develop this holistic approach and I would ask that anyone reading this find out what their institution, organisation, or membership group are doing with them. Get involved and don’t simply expect that things will happen be one of those that makes it so.

Contributor: John Nielsen BSc(Hons) CEng MICE FAPS CEnv is the Director of CK21 Ltd, the Regional Chair of CIC North East and CIC's Nations and Regions Champion.

To find out more about the CIC Nations and Regions Committees or to get involved please contact Liz Drummond ldrummond@cic.org.uk

Tags: