Time for a rebrand?

Glass Times editor Nathan Bushell suggests that recruitment in the construction industry is facing a crisis.

Supplying commercial or new-build projects with products or labour often defines a company, I’ve found.

While many gear their businesses to work in this market – for example, cost-efficient windows supplied on a just-in-time basis, with all the relevant certification and technical support – others shun it because they fear they won’t get paid on time.

In contrast, an installer fitting Mrs Jones’s conservatory won’t expect to wait 90 days to get paid. Nor will they live in fear of her going bankrupt, leaving them (and the plumber, and the electrician) in the lurch, which could threaten the future of their businesses.

Our lead story this week concerns recent research by the Federation of Master Builders that said more than two-thirds of construction companies can’t find basic skilled labour.

Two things spring to mind almost immediately: this further highlights the skills shortage we face in the construction industry, and we need to train more people; and Brexit could have an even more profound effect than we first imagined.

However, there are two other elements. Firstly, as we’ve reported many times before, the construction industry isn’t reflected well in the media. Yes, George Osborne was famous for donning a high-vis jacket and hard hat in order to look (I presume) credible, but news stories such as Bovis’s homes that are riddled with defects, and the collapse of Carillion don’t put the industry in a favourable light.

And secondly, as I write this, news has dropped into my inbox from the Office for National Statistics that says the labour market is arguably at its most competitive since the early 1970s.

“Estimates from the Labour Force Survey show that, between June to August 2017 and September to November 2017, the number of people in work increased, the number of unemployed people was little changed, and the number of people aged from 16 to 64 not working and not seeking or available to work (economically inactive) decreased,” the ONS said.

Furthermore, the ONS said the employment rate is at its joint highest since comparable records began in 1971, and the unemployment rate is the joint lowest since 1975.

Therefore, it’s not just the lack of training and the lack of available foreign labour, but the industry needs a massive marketing and recruitment push in an increasingly competitive market.