As this edition went to press the result of the referendum on the UK’s membership of the European Union was only just starting to kick off. There is likely to be a period of instability in government, as much of what has been said cannot be “unsaid”. The debate has been divisive and it is difficult to see how a government with a slim majority and such clear divisions will govern in the short term.
A period of uncertainty is therefore probable and we will quite possibly continue to see little government activity in areas that impact upon FIS members in anything other than a broad economic sense.
It will be our job at FIS to attempt to make sense of the outcome and work out how it will impact members. We already know there are a number of issues affecting members that will be subject to change, these include skills and training, availability of skilled labour, material prices, the impact of digitisation and new market opportunities.
The availability of skilled labour has been highlighted by many members as an important issue for some time. Many supplement their workforce with labour from other EU countries and this is unlikely to change in the short term, regardless of the vote. There are, however, three government-led initiatives that will change the way we train apprentices and upskill staff.
First are the new Trailblazer Apprenticeships which will change all apprenticeships and see the introduction of the new Digital Apprenticeship Service and Institute of Apprenticeships to police the frameworks. We then add the new Apprenticeship Levy payable for companies with a payroll of over £3 million, the details of which are still in preparation but it does mean that some members will pay this and the CITB levy. The third issue is the future of CITB. They need to gain consensus (a vote conducted every three years by the industry to retain the construction levy scheme) next summer. The industry could decide it no longer wants a construction training levy. That, as they say, is a full agenda and takes some explanation about how this will change the training landscape. FIS will be issuing guidance and providing help through this process to ensure that members get a good return on whatever levy they are paying. I would urge members to become involved in the discussion, as much of the detail has yet to be decided. If you care about the future of training and skills in the sector, whether contractor or manufacturer, your contribution could make all the difference. Please complete this short online survey: www.thefis.org/apprentice-survey
Material prices are another area of uncertainty. Before the vote, it was evident that double-digit steel prices were due in the summer. These rises are unrelated to the uncertainty around the vote but stress the impact of globalisation and, indeed, if there is political instability following the vote, this could impact the pound, causing further rises in imported products. Planning for this will be difficult but not impossible provided sufficient notice is given.
We always try to look for the good news and there are two areas that might offer a little relief. Firstly, the Bonfield Review on energy efficiency will be published this month with recommendations that will increase demand for members’ services and products. The second is a change in the way we deal with flooding. One of the consequences of climate change is the increased frequency of weather “events” leading to flash flooding. We simply won’t be able to stop it raining and flood defences will not cope. We will therefore need to make buildings – old and new – more resilient. Simple things like moving electrical sockets above the water line and water-resistant products. This will be an opportunity to innovate, something we really can do well.
FIS chief executive
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