When was the last time that you picked up a newspaper or switched on the news and it wasn’t dominated by Brexit hysteria?
In fact, recent research by Channel 4 revealed that talk of Britain’s departure from Europe is hard to avoid, with the word “Brexit” uttered 507 million times a day.
While we remain none the wiser on our post-EU future, one thing is certain: Brexit has been a big distraction that has taken the focus off other pressing domestic issues.
There are many areas of the British economy that are screaming out for more attention, but for the sake of this argument, I’m going to focus on construction.
The industry must embrace change and modernisation to overcome the skills gap the industry is currently facing.
The construction sector’s workforce is rapidly ageing with one fifth of the current workforce over 50. Simultaneously, construction is losing younger workers to competing sectors such as manufacturing due to higher pay and better working conditions.
Modernising the industry through embracing offsite manufacturing for example could help the industry present itself as a far more attractive career route.
Yorkshire-based ilke Homes, which manufactures homes in a factory in a similar way to how cars are manufactured, is leading the way in changing outdated perceptions of construction.
In September, they launched the first onsite training academy dedicated to training up the next generation of housebuilders and engineers to manufacture homes in factories. The academy demonstrates the different initiatives that can be introduced to spur on a recruitment drive within construction.
Another effective way of changing perceptions is by breaking records. The end of October saw modern methods of construction reach new heights in the UK, with Tide Construction and Vision Modular Systems installing the last module of their 101 George Street development. Towering over Croydon at a whopping 136 metres, the 44 and 38-storey project is now the tallest modular residential development in the world. And it’s schemes like this one that prove that Britain has what it takes to lead the world in modern methods.
However, for the rest of the industry to follow suit and to realise Esther McVey’s dream of Britain becoming a world leader in modular within the next decade, our archaic planning system must be overhauled.
Currently, the system remains painfully slow, expensive and out of date. This affects SME housebuilders the most as they often do not have the time or finances to navigate the complex system. What developers need, especially those plugged into modern methods, is far greater certainty, ideally with a presumption in favour of consent where a scheme meets the main demands around size and use.
This is important as an effective planning system plays a huge role in supporting economic growth in the UK.
Like myself, I’m sure many of you let out a sigh when the news of yet another Brexit extension was announced towards the end of last month.
And perhaps an even greater one when it became clearer that we will all have to trudge off to our local polling station on 12th December.
Whatever the result though, we need to start spending more time thinking about other domestic issues. There’s more at play than just Brexit.