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Dear minister: what the industry needs from you

Dear Matt Hancock. Congratulations on becoming our new minister. It’s always welcome for our industry not to have an absolute beginner who has to start from scratch.

During your time as skills minister you’ll have become aware of the complexities and challenges that face what is one of Britain’s largest industries and, of course, fully up to speed with the looming skills crisis.

You’ve been a friend to the industry in this respect, earning huge respect on support for initiatives to end postcode apprenticeships.

Changing the funding regime to pay for the over-19s to help recruit the 120,000 apprentices we need over the next five years would have certainly been a welcome bonus - and perhaps you can persuade your successor as skills minister it’s time for a rethink.

No government magic wand

But while the knowledge and support you will undoubtedly bring is comfort for a sector once again struggling to recruit at a trades and professional level, it’s worth reminding contractors and their supply chains not to offload their own responsibilities at the government’s door.

I’m sure you’ll be keeping a close eye on CITB reforms - the fact that only 21 per cent of those that are registered for the levy actually claim training grants is still a startling stat.

“The main emphasis needs to be on progress - better procurement, prompt payment, carbon savings - which have seemed a little slow at times”

But generally we’re not a nationalised industry and we shouldn’t be sitting around waiting for you to wave some sort of magic wand.

So what else should feature on your to do list? We already have enough ‘strategies’, though reiterating the vision for an integrated and efficient sector envisaged in the one launched in 2011, which kick-started BIM, wouldn’t be a bad idea.

After all, BIM is an area in which the UK has developed into a world leader, so it’s a good idea not to disband the BIM task force yet, isn’t it?

Picking up the pace

But the main emphasis needs to be on progress - better procurement, prompt payment, carbon savings - which have seemed a little slow at times.

The key role is to act as a lynchpin to ministers in the departments that make up the great majority of the government’s expenditure on construction, and ensure they plan to use their collective spending power in a way that not just encourages but positively demands reform.

It may be a bad move if you’re trying to keep in with the Treasury, but please be brave and push green objectives back up the agenda. DECC has still to crack what to do about the existing stock and even with the latest iterations, hasn’t cracked the Green Deal yet.

We’d really appreciate it if you could help make it both simpler and more affordable, and to simulate both demand and supply in the long term.

Good luck - we look forward to supporting you along the way.

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