FIS today congratulated the new UK Prime Minister Sir Kier Starmer and his colleagues on their election success as Labour forms the new Government.

FIS CEO Iain McIlwee noted that “A new Dawn for the UK, means it is essential to deliver a new Dawn for Construction.  The UK Construction Industry is at the beating heart of the country, enabling all other parts of the society and the economy to function and succeed.   The construction sector is worth 9% of GDP to the and employs over 2.5 million people.  But it is more than that, it provides our homes and infrastructure, it shapes our cities, preserves our heritage, provides our shelter and shapes our lives – great buildings are at the heart of a great nation.”

Two key areas of important focus for the new Government in their hundred day plan are:

Firstly Government as a procurer has perennially missed the opportunity to harness the potential of construction to support socio-economic development.  Best value procurement is delivered by following principles of the Construction Playbook, but the Playbook is routinely ignored.  Investment in the Value Toolkit took this a stage further, but this has never been realised.  Section 106 and equivalent procurement interventions needs an urgent rethink to align to the Playbook and ensure value outcomes are measured on a National Level – more devolution is coming, but it should enhance not replace a national strategy.

The reality of building more homes (more anything) is we need more people.  We have spent a generation building an industry around immigration, so this reform is going to take time and the infrastructure is not there (in our sector we need to double the best we did since 1974 to maintain the workforce we need).

Government needs to stop quoting International Benchmarks about arbitrary educational levels and “future skills” and look at what we need now. The landscape for L2 and L3 Apprenticeships has been decimated. The average apprentice is now over 25 and studying for a higher or advanced level apprenticeship. Only one in five apprenticeships is in a shortage occupation.

We need 1 in 10 people to choose to work in construction and we need them more work ready than they are now.  The role of the education system is to get people work ready and it then becomes the responsibility of the employer to turn work ready to competent and develop them.  Our reality is that kids leave school (and often college) nowhere near work ready and conditioned to think of construction as a last resort, not recognising we are the bedrock of all social and economic evolution. The dialogue in schools about our industry needs to change, it is a well paid and essential sector.  This was evidenced in the chaos of Covid when Government failed to deem construction essential workers, but still needed the “essential work” done.

In the meantime, we need an approach to migration and the Shortage Occupation list to be an agile stop gap solution.

We also caution Labour to consider carefully their plan to be tough on contingent workers. Government needs to be mindful of a quote that jumps out for me from the Reading Report:

“To invest in a directly employed workforce would render many firms uncompetitive given the limited focus on genuine and enduring collaborative relationships that procurement practices allow. The consequential reliance on contingent forms of labour is an issue of commercial reality rather than preference but has a detrimental impact on the training culture.”

Finally the Building Safety Act is a force for good, but there are some big gaps.  A key to tightening is to ensure that a Design Responsibility Matrix in included in the list of  regulated documents for the Building Safety Act, ensuring that this vital mechanism to make system based decisions based on the right advice at the right time is in place.

Read FIS Manifesto for the new Government: A Blueprint for a better Construction here