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The Midlands Construction Summit – Bringing Construction to the Heart of the UK

The Midlands Construction Summit – held on Tuesday 06 October at the NEC in Birmingham – was declared a great success by attendees, seeing 200 industry innovators, leaders, supply chain specialists and high level individuals, all operating in the various key construction sectors, gathering together to discuss the progress made and the future for governments Construction 2025 Industrial Strategy within the Midlands region.

The event was run by the Built Environment Hub, Constructing Excellence’s partner in the Midlands. Held alongside UK Construction Week, the event also hosted the launch of the brand new Built Environment Magazine. The philosophy behind the Summit was to support and advance the Midlands construction sector through collaboration, knowledge sharing, networking and engaging with government and major public sector bodies.

The combined conference and exhibition was chaired by Mark Wakeford – Chairman of the Strategic Forum, Managing Director of Stepnell and Chairman of the Built Environment hub – and saw presentations from such industry innovators as Alan Yates – Executive Designer of Regeneration of Accord Housing Group; Simon Dingle – Operations Director of Carillion; Des O’Neill  – Managing Director of Speller Metcalfe; Stephen Shaylor – Chief Executive Officer of Shaylor Group; Mike Reader – Director of Pick Everard; Mark Robinson – Chief Executive Officer of Scape Group and finally Peter Hansford – UK Government Chief Advisor.

Peter Hansford began his presentation with the statement:

“Construction is at the heart of the economy and the Midlands is at the heart of our country…”

He went on to highlight the importance of the construction industry that employs 10% of the UK workforce – meaning that the ‘government needs to sit up and listen’ to the demands of such a significant industry. Peter Hansford singled out five key issues that the industry faces today – ten years into the 2025 Strategy. These were: lack of skills, low productivity, barriers to innovation causing low profitability, the need for collaboration and misconceptions about the industry.

Both Alan Yates and Mark Robinson spoke about the housing challenge and what stood in the way of hitting the target of 240,000 homes built per year. Individually, they stated the crucial requirement for industry and government to work in collaboration as well as specifying the need for the industry to engage in offsite construction methods as way to deliver standardised homes and fast pace and low cost.

Other key topics discussed throughout the day included the subject of the current skills gap and the solutions needed to overcome this issue. Simon Dingle said that due to the lack of skilled workers, the industry is spending £50 – £20billion per year with no real tangible value as well as relying on skills from overseas:

“We cannot solve our problems with the thinking that we used to create them”

The skills gap falls under the theme of ‘People’ in which there was a strong agreement across both the speakers and audience that collaboration in this area is key.

The subject of people caused Stephen Shaylor to ask the question:

“Where will the leaders of tomorrow come from?”

He went on to answer this with the importance of investing in people. It was stated that more opportunities are needed to get young people involved in construction as well as the significance of investing in current staff to develop their skills.

Peter Hansford commented on the Midlands Construction Summit: “These regional events run by organisations like Built Environment Hub are really important.  In my role I could easily spend all my time around Westminster but is very important that I get out and meet the industry. This Midlands event has Construction 2025 running all through it – that’s both amazing and heartening.”

The Built Environment Hub has a strong reputation in the Midlands, hosting a range of high-calibre events and networking opportunities such as the Midlands Construction Summit and the Celebrating Construction Awards.