Aiming high

Steve Farmer, CEO at Mabey Hire discusses the need for investment and high hopes in the construction and engineering industry

Construction was hit hard by the financial crisis in 2008, and only began to grow strongly again from 2013, helping to create jobs and improve the recovery of the industry. However, despite the growth, there is a general consensus of a skills shortage and as a result, investment is needed.

With the pace of growth, the availability of qualified and skilled workers is dropping. There’s a lack of new talent, and finding younger tradesmen or apprentices of the right calibre and skill level is no easy feat. Many building firms view this as their biggest barrier to growth.

However, it’s not the be-all and end-all for construction. With the correct training services, companies can keep up with the fast-paced environment and train not only young tradespeople, but also the more experienced.

The skills shortage is no easy fix; the recession has caused a big skills exodus, but that’s the typical cycle and challenge faced by the construction industry. The CITB comments on how with 400,000 people leaving the sector in the recession and, with a further 400,000 set to retire within the next 10 years, there is a strong need for investment in skills to inspire the next generation.

Vince Cable has said that improving training and apprenticeships in construction was his main priority. This is great, but do companies have the skills and experience already in place to be able to provide the required training? Since its peak before the recession, the industry has lost 350,000 people and engineering companies are projected to need almost two million more people to gain engineering skills. So what next – should companies hire the best, or be investing in training to make the best?

The Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) has shown that there is a significant shortage of experienced workers and has found that almost a third of companies questioned found it difficult to identify candidates with the right skills. So, perhaps training for all should be more of a focus for the industry?

Training can ensure that your employees are up to scratch and can help to encourage team work. Once trained, more experienced employees can become mentors, allowing for the formation of an apprenticeship scheme. However training, be it internal or external, requires investment.

In the March 2014 budget, big investments to housing production were announced and this huge confidence boost is likely to help drive growth in the industry, particularly with the buying of materials and hiring of plant equipment. To take advantage of this, suppliers need to ensure that their sustainability credentials are updated and if they can also deliver innovative products, they are likely to be in high demand.

There needs to be more investment in the infrastructure and private construction sector to support growth in all areas of construction.

Innovating equipment and data gathering technology is supporting Mabey Hire’s growth, and its success highlights the importance for investment. Mabey Hire now employs over 400 staff, including a large design team, with a number of chartered engineers and more signed up to future training agreements. And the company has driven significant growth to its engineering expertise over 2014, via an investment programme with the Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE).

As well as working with the ICE, Mabey Hire is sponsoring three employees in external qualifications, working towards either a HNC or bachelors degree in civil engineering.

Companies need to embed a performance-driven culture within the business to meet the demands of the marketplace. To aim for further growth, Mabey Hire has created performance-driven objectives and high growth targets for its employees, with attractive incentives and rewards.

Furthermore, investment will be made in Mabey Hire’s delivery fleet, in order to keep it up to date and working efficiently. Hire equipment should arrive in modern, clean vehicles with polite, friendly drivers, to represent the brand positively.

Engineering UK comments on how “Britain is great at engineering” and that engineering turnover has grown 2.2% over the past four years to £1.1 trillion, which is 24.5% of the UK’s entire turnover. Yet, despite the construction industry expected to continue on its growth path, there is still scope for further investment in order to achieve the best possible results in 2015.

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