Elaine Knutt, CM Editor
The Re Is A Wide selection on the ideas menu in this issue. As our cover story suggests, the new wave of hi-tech smartphones are gadgets that offer the construction industry much more than gimmickry. They’re part of a new era of collaboration tools, where the emphasis is on harnessing our natural sociability rather than imposing communication protocols from a system administrator. Separately but simultaneously, we’re seeing a renewed interest in BIM – and this time it could be a reality.
In our management feature, which draws on the surprising results of a CIOB online survey, we look at how the industry can address a management skills deficit, and develop the corporate leaders who will find the way ahead in an era where everything is up for redefinition. To develop these competencies, some contractors are already looking beyond the industry and incorporating cross-sector best practice in their talent development programmes. In its “twinning” arrangement with broadcaster BSkyB, for instance, Kier has found a winning formula.
The reasons why it’s important to sample these ideas were spelled out by the two guest speakers at this year’s CIOB Guidhall dinner. Sir Bob Kerslake of the HCA, also writing in this month’s CM (page 14), talked of his aspirations for contractors to innovate in the design and delivery of much-needed affordable housing. And Balfour Beatty chief executive Ian Tyler reminded the industry of the need to deliver more output for less investment, and asked who would be the industry’s leaders in 10 years.
But as he stressed, uncertainty also brings opportunity for the companies and individuals that can exploit it. “Successful companies will deliver complex solutions, through intellectual capital, productivity, efficiency and long-term solutions,” he said. But to get there, and meet the carbon challenge at the same time, the industry will need to throw all the ideas it has at the challenge.
We hope that more of you will be visiting our website this month, as our CPD questionnaire goes online. And don’t forget to sign up for our free weekly email newsletter rounding up of the industry’s news. It’s all about information, isn’t it?
Elaine Knutt, editor
Chrissi McCarthy MCIOB
I agree with the comments made by Graham Watts regarding diversity and the image of the construction industry (CM, February), but I fear an important point is being missed. The women I talk to who are considering leaving industry, and there are many, say it’s not lack of toilets, welfare facilities or even maternity cover that are the main influencers in their decisions. It’s the opportunities they are missing out on compared to their male colleagues, the automatic admin duties they inherit, and the inability to progress.
We do need to change our image to reflect the professional industry we often are, and we do need to recruit more women and improve current policy to ensure we are an attractive option, but first we must look after the women we already have as without them there will be no role models and no change.
It’s a complicated area and most women do not inform their organisations of the issues they face for fear of repercussion. But plans are under way to set up a support network for women where they can receive free qualified advice, guidance and support when they find themselves disadvantaged due to gender.
Janet Wood FRICS MCIOB
Graham Watts is concerned about our industry’s image (CM, February). Construction is the only industry where most people consider that they know all about it – the “muddy boots” or “shoddy DIY” they perceive. They do not see the complex multi-faceted world that we do.
When I left school to train as a quantity surveyor, fellow sixth formers thought I was “going to count bricks”. They could not understand cost control, measurement, dealing with “the other side” etc.
Our industry needs to communicate with the wider world. It needs to convey its logistical, as well as its technical, capabilities; whether that be the estimator juggling time deadlines trying to obtain sufficient work while not overburdening the firm, the programmer, the materials scheduler, the surveyor chasing cash flow, the site manager, the architect. Until our industry promotes its full logistical expertise, our clients, let alone the general public and possible new recruits, will not appreciate it and will continue to undervalue it.
David Stockdale FCIOB
On receipt of Professor John Bale’s erudite paper “An inclusive definition of Construction Management”, I wish to contribute my views on the current work being undertaken within the CIOB.
I earned my corporate membership in 1982, since when I have been intrigued with regard to the recurring debate surrounding our descriptor. We are now discussing “construction management”, how we can reaffirm what it is, and how we, as corporate members, can badge ourselves within the context of construction management. Even though we are, under the terms of the Royal Charter, actually “Chartered Builders”.
However erudite the current argument for change is, the simple fact is that no single descriptor – even the proposed multi-part descriptor – will satisfy everyone. If we move away from “Chartered Builder”, doesn’t that mean we have failed, in the generation since gaining the Royal Charter, to positively influence society and be recognised as professional builders? The cowboys and the “Bob the Builder” stereotype will have succeeded in driving us as away from our own title.
But as a pragmatist, I can see a way forward with the debate – if indeed it is a debate – that presents an opportunity to the CIOB. I suggest the leadership required with regard to the new carbon economy is accommodated within the descriptor “Chartered Building Technologist”.
For the full text see our website.
John Burgis MCIOB
When are we going to see the title of this publication changed to “Environmental Rant Monthly”. One of the most depressing features of the current thrust for environmental change is the evangelical nature of most, if not all, of the statements made about global warming and other environmental issues.
It is depressing to open this month’s magazine (February) and see it follows the trend of avoiding virtually anything that does not lead with an environmental or a moral theme.
This is leading to a badly biased product. Of course the environment and sustainability is important but we should not forget that there are sceptics out there and that they are important to ensure that a balanced view free from hysteria is sought.
Dr Jacqui Glass, University of Loughborough
Although I was pleased to see the coverage for EcoBuild (CM, February), I was disappointed to see that my comments potentially give CM readers the wrong impression about the quality of our programmes here. While most is correct, our conversation focused on the delivery of professional courses in general in the UK right now and while we were
also discussing what sustainability coverage was on offer at Loughborough, I was not in any way criticising the quality of our programmes.
Do you have an opinion on any of this month’s articles? Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Illustration: Tim Ellis
Rok used to receive £27 per person per training day but that’s been cut to just £17. We ran 2,000 training days last year – a £20,000 drop in funding.
The supplementary benefit we received for paying on time has also been reduced from 25% to 10%. Most large contractors will be struggling to provide the same levels of training with these reductions.
I want James Wates to scrutinise smaller contractors to make sure they pay their levies. I’m told that many SMEs exceed the £80,000 turnover threshold, but are not registered to the scheme. He also needs to improve communications with participating contractors.
Alison White, training leader, Rok
ConstructionSkills’ long-term future can only be secured by delivering value for money to the industry. This can be achieved in part by maximising the proportion of contractors’ levy and government grants it returns to the industry and minimising its own overheads. It is crucial Wates ensures grants are focused on training and development outputs, not inputs, in particular backing contractors with a track record of delivering fully trained and motivated staff and craftsmen to our industry. I would like to see ConstructionSkills focus its efforts on supporting young well educated and motivated school leavers.
Mark Beard FCIOB, Beard Construction
The whole system of training and apprenticeships in construction needs an overhaul. Large contractors are now merely managers of subcontractors, without proper training departments and they don’t take on apprentices. You only need to look at the number of labour agencies to see what’s going on. With ConstructionSkills cutting training grants, what incentive is there?
Mike Smith MCIOB, Corniche Builders
Wates needs to work on getting the government to commit more funds to the industry. We’ve been trying to put some of our guys on NVQ3 courses, but our training provider tells us that it’s a lottery which companies will receive any grants. Construction contributes around 8% of GDP in the UK, so the government must commit to construction training.
Phillip Hall MCIOB, Hall Construction
The new chairman should place more emphasis on the theory elements of training for craftsmen, which would improve their prospects for career progression in the industry. City & Guilds teaching used to include a college day-release element, but today everything is site based. Training is also suffering in general due to the high levels of labour agency employees in the industry, so perhaps he can influence government policy on that issue.
Paul Corner, project manager, Morrisson Construction