4th January 2019
2019 – Reasons to be Cheerful

True, there’s a lot we could all be less than optimistic about. Brexit, of course, heads the list and brings uncertainties on many fronts, and our constantly-changing weather patterns may see us battling another ‘Beast from the East’ before winter comes to an end.

But there again, these things might not happen in the way we fear. There are reasons why we can all feel more cheerful; here are some recent news stories that should give us cause for optimism.

“New high-skills jobs open up as UK construction sector transforms” –

The government’s latest Industrial Strategy is designed to advance new knowledge and approaches.  At the heart of this is a £72m investment in a Core Innovation Hub, which is designed to spearhead a major transformation in construction, making it more productive and leading to the creation of more high-value jobs.

Extensive research into digital and off-site construction is planned. It is envisaged that introducing standardised modular components and innovative construction techniques will remove risks, and create safer and more efficient work. Technologies such as augmented and virtual reality will become widely used.

“UK construction industry sector expands most in 4 months” – Market Insider

The British construction sector expanded at the fastest pace in the four months to November, thanks to an increase in new work and consequent gains in job creation. The sector expanded for an eighth month in a row, and the November reading was the highest since July.

Whilst Brexit worries will overshadow the months to come, the impetus is undoubtedly there. Figures published in Construction News show that during 2018, many of the industry’s smaller firms performed extremely well, despite all the problems reported across the industry.

“The impact of EU migrants in the UK construction industry” – Building Products

This article reported that recent research carried out by Inside Housing showed that only a fifth of those surveyed saw Brexit as the biggest problem confronting the UK construction industry, suggesting that the skills shortage has existed for several years. EU workers account for just 8% of the workforce, although that figure rises to 28% in the London area.

The article posed an interesting question. “Could departing from the EU be beneficial? It could create a wider range of job opportunities within the UK that would become available and allow a growth of UK suppliers. Knight Frank reports that Brexit has done little to deter investors from London, as purchases of assets increased from the previous year.”

“Heathrow delivers boost to UK’s offsite construction industry” – Infrastructure Intelligence

Expansion at Heathrow is set to lead the UK’s offsite construction revolution as 65 potential logistics hubs across the country progress to the next stage of the process of shortlisting firms to be involved in the delivery of the new runway.

The expansion project will have four sites either assembling components, or serving as a consolidation centre for these loads before they are transported to Heathrow, helping to reduce the project’s impacts on local communities.

“Commercial construction industry finishes year strongly” – Specification Online

This report highlights that the recent recovery in approvals during 2018 suggests renewed confidence among investors in the longer-term prospects for the sector, and is expected to lift project starts over the medium term.

Taking a positive view

Construction is one of the largest sectors in the UK economy, employing around 9% of the UK’s total workforce, equating to 3.1 million people. There is obviously huge potential, and as recent figures from the house-building sector show, output is continuing to rise. If the government is able to reduce Brexit uncertainty, and the delivery of major infrastructure projects can be speeded up, then the outlook for 2019 could be far from gloomy.