As we head into September we inevitably think about going back to school. This year will be no exception – but with added urgency. I’ve lost count of the  warnings in the press about skills shortages impacting on the construction industry and calls to do something about it. Well, here is your chance: “start by taking on an apprentice, invest something in your  future company.”

Back in the 19th century, philosopher William Hazlitt stated we are only “imaginatively connected” to our future self, whereas we are “naturally connected” to our past and present self.

But what does a deep thinker like Hazlitt have to tell us about today’s skills debate? It has something to do with the fact we unconsciously believe that our future self is someone else, not us; that our grasp on the future is tenuous at best and our motivations are totally rooted in the present: in which case, someone else will deal with the skills shortage.

It’s the reason you don’t iron a shirt the night  before needing it but leave the job to the morning: future self will deal with that. We constantly stitch up our future self!

Skills are, however, heading into present self-territory. The pressures are mounting as we see increasing demand for the blue skilled CSCS cards; not just a card, but the right one for the job. Increasing costs of labour, difficulties in getting the right quality of staff to deliver projects economically and the lack of new entrants are all adding to the skills shortage mix.

FIS is working with CITB and Build UK to make taking on an apprentice more attractive for employers and to suit the sector better than the current one size fits all. Manufacturers will be key to delivery. As Deborah Gore of Encon describes opposite, “manufacturers and suppliers have some of the best training facilities” and we believe that these should be extensively used and integrated into flexible apprenticeships. We also have a programme to help upskill operatives to enable them to get a CSCS card.

The Chancellor made some pretty ominous noises around HMRC and IR35 status, and with a consultation due in the autumn who knows what that will bring. One thing is for sure: it is not going to propose a laxer system than currently exists for labour only subcontractors.

We will be tackling all these issues at the FIS Conference at the Forest of Arden on 7 October. We have a great line-up of top class speakers, with the simple brief of telling us “what they think” rather than what they’ve done. How do they see the industry changing in the coming years?

You will also get your chance to contribute in our big debate on the future of the industry. How do we improve the image of the industry, attract more people, increase profitability?

If you want to hear from the chief executives of Travis Perkins, CITB and Build UK, and find out the latest H&S initiatives from Lend Lease and Skanska, then you had better sign up fast as we are rapidly selling out..!

There will be priceless nuggets of information for your business and the opportunity to network with potential clients and your contemporaries. See you all there.


David Frise
FIS chief executive