The world has changed and no doubt this year will bring even more of the unexpected. This month sees President Trump take office – wow… I never ever thought I’d write those words! The process of exiting the EU will also gather pace, assuming that the courts don’t delay the inevitable even more.

So, where does the finishes and  interiors sector go from here? Workloads are expected to hold up but with  commercial office investment already falling there is a lot resting on the government’s ambitions to boost construction with more housebuilding and infrastructure spending.

But how can we resource this boost in spending when there is a commitment to reduce foreign workers? All very well  upskilling existing workers but where will the new entrants come from?

FIS is driving its new training strategy as part of a commitment to closing the increasing skills gap that exists within the finishes and interiors sector (see page 25). Its £350,000 investment should be praised.

The government continues to bang the drum for apprenticeships yet the model to bring more new entrants into our industry just doesn’t seem to work. Everyone  supports the concept but the reality of delivery is not there. Even the much-lauded new Apprenticeship Levy has caused  confusion and the effect of the new levy is still unknown. However, if the voucher system can be made to work this will be a big step forward.

This is where the sector has to up its  game and drive improvements in  performance. Educating end-user clients to remove wasteful processes and improving co-ordination between specialist trades will make a significant difference to raising  productivity and technical standards.

Just take a tube to Vauxhall in South  London and walk across the Wandsworth Road to look at the way Stanmore has tackled a multi-trade contract for house developer Barratt (see page 14). Its tight team approach and complete flexibility have helped to keep work on programme. This is just one of many examples from FIS members and demonstrates how traditional businesses can, and have, adapted to  changing requirements and tackle time, cost and quality with total commitment.

You may have thought 2016 was a year of dramatic events, but we sure have a big year ahead of us with 2017.

Adrian JG Marsh