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26th August 2020

We need to think about the construction industry’s role in building back better

 

The Covid-19 pandemic, while devastating in so many ways, is also an unprecedented opportunity for positive change, and the construction industry has a crucial role to play in a clean, fair, sustainable recovery. As we emerge from lockdown, we need to think about what we would like the recovery process to look like – what needs to change, what we can do better, where we can improve.

In the past, a lack of confidence in long-term policy direction has impeded the industry’s ability to attract new talent and train people in the low carbon skills that are going to be crucial if we are to ensure the sustainability of our built environment. Instability and piecemeal policy have weakened the resilience of the construction supply chain and reinforced a lowest-cost procurement model which has eroded quality and hindered innovation.

While the Prime Minister’s campaign to get Britain building in coronavirus recovery is a call to action for the industry, it will need support and clear direction if it is to be able to deliver.

This is why the CIOB is calling on the Government, as part of our submission to the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Committee’s inquiry into post-pandemic growth, to build on the progress of the Green Homes Grant and implement a long-term national retrofit strategy as a key infrastructure priority and core element of its Industrial Strategy. This will establish a clear direction of travel for the construction industry, as well as help to provide the certainty that businesses need to create stable, green jobs beyond 2021.

We believe that upgrading the energy efficiency of existing homes through repair, maintenance and improvement work is a socially valuable project that will support the economy, while providing a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to address the health and wellbeing of our communities and make progress towards our net zero obligations. 

Our submission outlines our vision for this strategy, including our proposal for a ‘Help to Fix’ scheme which would provide interest-free loans for energy efficiency retrofits and other home improvement measures as an incentive for homeowners, which would then be repaid at point of sale.

Ultimately, green initiatives will only work if the built environment sector has a sufficient pipeline of talented individuals who are qualified to carry out the work to the highest standards. Construction has traditionally faced complex recruitment challenges, compounded by the ageing profile of workers in the sector, low numbers of new entrants and the proposed changes to immigration laws.

Government and industry must work together closely to foster a labour market that is flexible and responsive to future skills needs as they develop. We are calling on the Government to consider ways in which, as a key industry client, it can support more efficient, effective and sustainable business models within construction.

The CIOB’s response to the Committee’s inquiry is currently being considered and will shortly be available to read here.