- 23 Feb 2010
Shift in skills - a challenge for construction
For some of our colleagues in the construction industry it may seem a little soon to be focusing on problems that arise out of recovery, but for those of us who have survived previous recessions, there are certain situations which appear cyclical.
Following the downturns of both the early eighties and nineties, one of the factors which held back growth in construction work was the number of skilled people who had been lost to the industry permanently. They had either taken up alternative careers, retired or emigrated; and everything points to this pattern being repeated.
Many will be hoping that MMC or off-site construction will mitigate against the skills shortage which will almost certainly manifest itself as activity increases, though most manufacturers in the field are already, themselves, having to recruit from other industries. In addition to attracting workers from hard pressed areas such as car-making, they have also coaxed many construction industry tradesmen away from site and into the warmth of their workshops, where safety records as well as conditions and continuity are far better.
However, despite the fact that the likes of Sir John Egan and former Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott, foresaw the off-site sector achieving high quality and even 'Zero Defects,' the truth is that the perfect construction project does not exist, and will probably never happen.
For even where bathroom pods or complete modules are being craned into position to fast- track the erection of schools, apartment buildings, hotels and other types of property, there still remain potential areas of attrition.
Transporting and lifting units generates stresses that cause cracks to open up in plaster joints or tiled surfaces, while those making the service connections jointing modules together can often cause damage to doors, floors and other surfaces.
So if Zero Defects is an unattainable ideal, what does the manufacturer, main contractor or client's agent do about putting things right. Whether you are developing luxury flats or a medical facility – using traditional build or MMC – everything has to be right at final handover. And pulling already over-stretched tradesmen off other work to carry out snagging is unlikely to be seen as economically viable.
Ironically Plastic Surgeon regularly recruits people such as former service personnel, teachers and those who have worked in manufacturing, as well as dry-liners, decorators and others with building experience: training them up in specialist repair techniques such as glass polishing, re-shaping PVC profiles and colour matching the most complex patterns in surfaces such as kitchen work-tops.
They then are able to go out and execute the diverse selection of repairs required every day on sites across the country. Essentially, no matter what form the recovery takes, the right skills will be needed at the right price to take advantage of it.