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What Does the Construction Sector Need in 2022?

Last year was a rough and tumble year for much of the construction industry, with the total spent by British consumers on home improvements estimated to have amounted to £110.3bn, equating to an average of £2,011 per person, Fix Radio found. While many tradespeople have never been busier, success has been tempered by the growing threat of tool theft, an ongoing mental health crisis, a yawning skills deficit, and sky-high materials process.

In order to move past this period of uncertainty Fix Radio – the nation’s leading radio station for builders and tradespeople – has compiled their definitive list of the seven actions that must be addressed in 2022 to improve the construction industry:

  1. Stopping tool theft: Stopping tool theft in just 12 months is probably a little ambitious, but we’ll settle for somebody sitting up, taking notice, and helping tradespeople combat the issue. So, politicians, police, tool manufacturers, van makers and insurance firms – get your finger out! You can help too by signing our anti-tool theft petition.
  1. Materials prices drop: Sky-high material prices in the last 12 months are well documented, but in 2022 we hope the global supply chain sorts itself out. While there are signs that material prices around timber are normalising, high energy costs will likely keep the cost of bricks, glass, concentre and cement stubbornly high. The real question for many tradespeople is ‘will building merchants ever drop prices to pre-pandemic levels?’.
  1. COVID-19 isn’t going anywhere: Fixing the global supply chain is partially reliant on successfully combating the pandemic. In late December, the Construction Leadership Council Product Availability Group warned that the Omicron variant would prose further production and operational challenges in 2022. With COVID likely to with us well into 2022, we’re in a position where we just have to get on with it. Do your bit by getting vaccinated (and boosted), keep wearing facemasks and washing your hands.
  1. Look after your mental health: Over the last year two workers from our industry took their livesevery working day – an average of 10 a week. There is no magic bullet to resolve the issue, but creating an atmosphere where your colleagues can open-up about the difficulties of working in this industry is an important first step.
  1. The skills shortage: Resolving the skills deficit will take years, and require cooperation across government, education and the construction sectors. But solo tradespeople can do their bit. Consider whether you can afford to take on an apprentice, particularly at a time when many in the industry have never been busier; for the first year apprentices barely cost anything and before long they should be making your firm money.
  1. Industry regulations: Whether it is certifying electrical qualifications, approving the quality of new builds, or trying to stamp out cowboy builders there is a clear need across construction for greater regulation to improve safety and quality of work. There are lots of different ideas being knocked around, but it needs a coordinated leadership push to get something across the line.
  1. What is the construction minister going to do? Speaking of leadership, Lee Rowley is the sixth Construction Minster in two years. It would great if he can successfully campaign to push the transition to net zero, or get more funding to tackle the skills crisis, mental health in the industry or combat tool theft.

Clive Holland, host of The Clive Holland Show on Fix Radio, shares his thoughts on how the skills deficit has affected the construction sector:

“The UK construction sector is facing a huge skills deficit – experienced tradespeople left the sector in droves during the pandemic and efforts to recruit young people into the trades are failing.

“According to government figures the number young people entering apprenticeships has fallen by nearly 10% in the last year and the Construction Products Association estimated that over 220,000 workers have left the industry since the summer of 2019. The shortage of skills will make the building more expensive – last year saw 6% wage inflation!

“The construction industry is failing to address this growing problem. There needs to be a long-term strategy where construction firms and trade bodies work closely with the education sector and government agencies to achieve shared goals.”