The UK has an infrastructure pipeline of £600bn over the next decade, including £44bn for housing. The Industrial Strategy: Construction Sector Deal, published by the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy last week, outlines plans for meeting this demand.
The government’s vision is that the sector will:
- Deliver homes faster – to meet demand
- Deliver buildings at a third of the cost – so that they are more affordable
- Deliver buildings that are more energy efficient – so that they are cheaper to run and have a lower environmental impact
The vision is underpinned by two key elements; the Five Foundations of Productivity and the Grand Challenges.
The Five Foundations of Productivity:
- Ideas: a number of polices are planned to help drive innovation. R&D investment will increase (to 2.4% of GDP by 2027), R&D tax credits will rise to 12%, and a new £725m fund will be launched (the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund)
- People: plans include investing £406m in maths, digital and technical education to address the skills shortage in STEM roles, and a new £64m National Retraining Scheme will re-skill and attract new entrants to the construction sector
- Infrastructure: electric vehicles will be supported through a £400m investment in charging points and an extra £100m to extend the plug-in car grant. The National Productivity Investment Fund will increase to £31bn. £1bn will be spent in digital infrastructure (including £176m in 5G and £200m for full-fibre networks)
- Business environment: a £2.5bn Investment Fund will drive and support new, innovative businesses. A review into the productivity and growth of SMEs will create recommendations to help companies with strategy
- Places: Local Industrial Strategies will review and promote strengths and opportunities across the UK. A £1.7bn Transforming Cities Fund will pay for better transport connections within city regions. The £42m Teacher Development Premium will provide extra training in areas that have fallen behind
The Grand Challenges:
There are four challenges set within the report. The aim is to make the UK a world leader in: AI and Data Economy, the Future of Mobility, Clean Growth, and managing the demands of an Ageing Society.
The government will support innovation, create jobs in these areas, and help with efforts to educate consumers. This will be in partnership with professional bodies and businesses.
For industry, extra support will come in the form of advice and guidance around best value, procurement, contracts, payment procedures, and risk management. This will include benchmarking to drive improvement.
Seven things for communicators
After reading the report, there are seven key points that communicators need to consider:
- Stakeholder communications remains important: engaging the community will be essential to gain support for the amount of development that must take place
- Businesses must communicate the value they deliver: economic, environmental, social. This will make the sector an employer of choice and help to drive support for new development
- Digital will be central to construction: efforts to modernise construction, such as investment in BIM, have brought new technology into the construction sector. But there is a lag as people need to be upskilled. Communicators should integrate digital tools into internal and external communications to help organisations learn about the opportunities
- Attracting new recruits into the sector is a must: businesses need to target school children and adults who may want to re-skill. Storytelling will help; describe the paths people have taken in their careers and what they do
- Companies committed to real change will move ahead: businesses should use this report to drive change. Those that lobby to improve safety, innovate to reduce environmental impacts, deliver a more affordable product, and share risk more fairly, will improve their reputation and performance
- Find partners: to deliver change and meet the challenges in the report the industry needs to work together. By promoting ethics, diversity and career opportunities together, the industry will become more attractive. This applies to PR professionals too. The CIPR’s construction group CAPSIG already works with groups within the sector, including the Construction Industry Council
- Diversity is important, and construction has a long way to go:158,000 people are needed and the industry skews towards a white, male workforce. Communication should promote and encourage diversity. This will be helped by more diverse communications teams (this is a problem according to the CIPR’s State of the Profession 2018 Report).
Many of the themes within the Construction Sector Deal were explored in my post last month: Construction’s reputation – an ongoing issue. I said that solving these problems would help improve the industry’s reputation. The aims have been set. Will the sector deliver?
Photo by Lorenzo Spoleti on Unsplash