The government and construction industry leaders have signed up to a new strategy for long-term construction growth, which will seek to address many industry issues including those of particular interest to SMEs such as fair payment, providing regional pipelines of work and apprentices.
Robin Sporn, director of SME main contractor Sporn Construction, said his first thoughts on the strategy were that it seems to lack much initial SME input.
Mr Sporn said: “The strategy all looks very good, but it has very much been developed with feedback from large companies and clients. There are not many SME’s on the Council.
“Developing people is mentioned, however much of the emphasis is on white collar skills rather than trade, much is made of engaging with the public and in particular young people to encourage them into the industry, however I am amazed that to achieve such ambitious targets no overhaul of the apprenticeship system has been touched upon.
“BIM I believe is a fantastic idea and with time, training and funding it will obviously work on large projects, however I can see it being a considerable amount of time before it will filter down to main contractor SMEs such as Sporn Construction.
“We have very joined up thinking with our subcontractors and management team, however the training and compatible software needed I think would be prohibitive for us, especially in the current climate.”
Julie White, managing director of diamond drilling SME D-Drill, said: “The new strategy should begin to open the door for SMEs, and break the glass ceiling of larger organisations winning the major key contracts.
“The paying of the smaller SME in a timely fashion will facilitate the growth requirement to make the smaller innovative SME able to compete, which is a significant step in the right direction.
“The greatest barrier for the SME has been receiving monies promptly from customers. Within the plan, the government and industry are committing to improving access to trade credit and increasing fair payment practices.
“This pledge will begin to provide a mechanism for safeguarding jobs and provide an appetite for the SME owner to invest more into his or her business which will create jobs and also create a greater competitive environment.
“Breaking these barriers is only a start; the real test is whether or not the industry is ready for the innovation that is likely to stem from the new initiatives.
“Time as always will be the judge on how successful this strategy will be. In an industry notorious for its inability to change the incentives and rewards will need to be high to make the paradigm switch required.”
Paul Cox, managing director of Reconomy, was disappointed at the lack of focus on waste initiatives to further the sustainability agenda in the strategy.
He said: “Whilst the strategy outlines an extremely positive opportunity for the construction sector, it is disappointing to see the lack of focus on waste initiatives in achieving sustainable construction. The word “waste” is mentioned as little as nine times in the whole document!
Huge effort have already been made in reducing waste to landfill through successful initiatives such as WRAP’s “Halving Waste to Landfill” commitment and the lack of recognition to such schemes implies that we may have now moved on, which could weaken contractors commitment to the sustainability agenda.”
Rob Simmons, director of Fensec, said: “On the face of it, especially this morning, it rather had the feel of a pep talk from government to the industry with the usual gang of BigCos as the audience. Some mutual encouragement with little reference to where the actual knowledge & power to achieve the required outcomes is based.
“Specialist contractors & suppliers start work on projects a long time before a site opens. A lot of free time is given working collaboratively with client liaison, designs, solving problems, costings & whole life costings.
“They also provide the value engineering, put the job together on site and maintain it afterwards, so we are looking for any signs that the relationships started, sometimes years before site start up, are valued throughout. We see some small signs of this, but fear that the value will be missed and forgotten to go straight to the bottom line, regardless of the outcome.”