Construction and consultancy giant Mace has launched ‘A Manifesto for Construction and the Built Environment’, calling on politicians from all parties to introduce a range of policies that would help the UK construction industry to thrive under the next Government.
The report underscores the importance of the sector, which contributes more than £110bn annually to the UK economy and is one of the country’s largest employers.
The manifesto explores nine specific policy areas in which the UK’s political parties could help to drive growth in the sector. These are: skills, immigration, exports, innovation, procurement, infrastructure, project delivery, carbon emissions and the planning system.
In each area, the report outlines specific policies that would help to deliver better outcomes across the UK construction sector and help to deliver growth at a crucial time for the industry.
Key policy suggestions include:
1. Creating a Department for Growth
The responsibility for planning, business regulation, housing and transport are split between departments in the UK. This means that when a large infrastructure project comes along it cuts across multiple policy areas with a very wide range of stakeholders. Bringing the relevant elements together into a coherent single government department would improve decision-making and efficiency.
2. Ensuring the UK’s future immigration system recognises the unique nature of the construction industry
The construction industry is heavily dependent on immigrant labour to help fill vacant positions and UK skills gaps. Any future immigration system must not be based on arbitrary salary thresholds but on the key skills and occupations that the economy needs. This includes paying particular attention to shortage occupations from construction.
3. Reviewing the Apprenticeship Levy and increasing the number of apprenticeships
Since the introduction of the Levy in 2017, many businesses have found it too restrictive and hard to access. If a future Government truly wants to bring about an apprenticeship revolution, it needs to be made more flexible. Businesses should be allowed to use the funds to pay for training in ‘soft-skills’ that help people become work ready, the provision of travel funding outside of London and the removal of the 20% ‘off the job’ learning hours requirement which can put off employers.
4. Tackling the low-carbon skills gap to ensure we can reach Net Zero Carbon
A recent report from the London School of Economics found that a substantial gap in skills exists in construction as we move to a decarbonised economy. Our future Government needs to ensure that the CITB and any future Sector Deal look to address the low-carbon skills gap which exists in the existing construction workforce and could hinder the UK’s progress towards this vital milestone.
Mark Reynolds, Mace’s Chief Executive, said:
“The construction industry is a huge contributor to the UK economy, and yet we often don’t receive the attention we deserve. Rarely has our sector faced such an uncertain future, and so it is crucial that during this election campaign politicians from all parties recognise that our industry is vital to the long-term success of the UK economy.
“Whoever ends up running the country in December, we know that our industry will need their support. In our manifesto, we’ve outlined a number of clear and straight forward policy changes that would give our sector the certainty to invest and continue to grow.”
Henri Murison, Director of the Northern Powerhouse Partnership said:
“The importance of infrastructure to the Northern Powerhouse, playing a key part in closing the North – South divide, cannot be overstated. The construction sector will be critical to this, and addressing the barriers to making progress need to be a question for parties at the upcoming General Election.”
“From the benefits of delivering projects such as Northern Powerhouse Rail, through to capitalising on the opportunity of those growing up here today getting the highly skilled, quality jobs that will be created by building it, the size of the prize is significant. An incoming Government needs to address the concerns put forward here, with a Department for Growth the right partner for more powerful and empowered city region Mayors working on the ground here in the North.”