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Where’s construction’s inspirational leader?

Andy Robinson

As Carillion’s collapse continues to dominate headlines and thousands across the industry are left asking what will happen next, I can’t help but wonder: who is leading the way for construction in these difficult times?

When I look around at other key industries in the UK, I feel like there’s a champion for every sector except construction – this is becoming more apparent with every day that goes by.

If there’s a crisis in business, we can expect to hear from Sir Richard Branson with some reassuring words of wisdom. When there’s a scandal in the world of science, we know that Professor Brian Cox will have something to say. If corruption is uncovered in the financial sector, we can rely on Money Saving Expert founder Martin Lewis to stand up for everyone that’s affected.

So where’s our inspirational leader in the construction industry? Who’s our hero? Considering construction accounts for around three million jobs in the UK – around 10 per cent of total employment – it’s time we had a voice.

Diluting our voice

There’s no denying we have some fantastic organisations and regulatory bodies – including the National Federation of Builders, RICS, the CITB and the Institution of Structural Engineers to name a few – but there is a lack of cohesion across the board.

There are in fact too many organisations who have ‘special’ interests across our industry and therefore the message is constantly diluted. We need someone who can speak up for us in these hard times and bring every corner of the industry together. 

“We have to spread the word that construction can be one of the most satisfying and well-paid jobs in the world, because it really can be”

Is it the government’s job? Maybe. Perhaps we do need someone who has a voice in parliament to make substantial changes and better our industry practices.

If there was a representative acting on our behalf, championing our ideas and feeding back to the people with the power, we would stand a better chance of being heard and seeing real change. Or maybe it needs to be someone who has worked in construction – an industry leader from a well-respected organisation who understands the challenges, can take charge and make a difference? 

Who will step up?

It’s undoubtedly a big job and I’m certainly not volunteering for the role. But without having that voice of reason and credibility, I fear the industry is only going to suffer time and time again.

If we want to encourage more young people to take up a career in construction, we need to have an aspirational leader for them to look up to. We simply cannot afford for fresh talent to be deterred from joining the industry because of the negative portrayal in the media.

We need to learn from the Carillion debacle and educate people. We have to spread the word that construction can be one of the most satisfying and well-paid jobs in the world, because it really can be.

There is nothing quite like turning someone’s plans into reality and standing in front of a finished development. The feeling of pride I get when we complete a project never goes away because it’s a testament to our team’s hard work, ingenuity and innovation.

This feeling of achievement will be lost among the next generation if we are not careful.

It might have left a bad taste in our mouths, but Carillion is the wake-up call we needed. It’s time we stopped focusing on individual profit and instead looked at how the entire sector can overcome this difficult time together.

I just hope we find our industry hero sooner rather than later.

Andy Robinson is chief executive of Colmore Tang Construction

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