PRCA Property, Construction and Infrastructure Group event: Creating a radical shift in UK construction

By: Jo Sutherland

As PRCA members, Magenta is often invited to thought-leadership seminars, panel debates, data debriefs and presentations – and, as self-confessed built-environment geeks (there’s something I never thought I’d say!), we tend to go here, there and everywhere, in search of the latest insight. We are, in short, knowledge junkies.

Last week, I waved the Magenta, aka “M People”, flag at the PRCA Property, Construction and Infrastructure Group event in London. Mark Farmer, the CEO of real estate and construction consultancy CAST, guided us through his much-discussed Farmer Review. Since us knowledge workers believe “sharing’s caring”, here are some of the key takeaways:

The UK construction labour model is in trouble and the industry, as an entirety, faces – and I quote – “inexorable decline” unless radical steps are taken to address its longstanding problems.

So what are those problems?

Well, let’s start with the industry’s dysfunctional training model, its lack of innovation and collaboration, as well as its non-existent research and development (R&D) culture. If that’s not bad enough, add in a dollop of low productivity and sprinkle on the recent high levels of cost inflation, driven by a shortage of workers.

Hmmm. What to do?

Well, Farmer urges the Government to use its education, fiscal, housing and planning policy measures to initiate change and create the right conditions to support the sector’s modernisation. He also encourages more investment in pre-manufactured construction, through offsite built or modular housing.

The construction industry and the clients that rely on it are at a critical juncture and it is time to review the seriousness of the future outlook. Deep-seated problems have existed for many years and are well known and rehearsed, yet despite that, there appears to be a collective reluctance or inability to address these issues and set a course for modernisation.

Communications and delivering a fundamentally new industry reputation is critical to enacting that ‘radical change’. In short, we should subscribe to Farmer’s mantra – “modernise or die”.

Ok, yes, I’m condensing the complexity of the Review into a blog on a Friday afternoon, but that’s the candid, crucial message, minus the sugar-coating.

As our pal Socrates states: “The secret of change is to focus all of your energy, not on fighting the old, but on building the new.” And you can only build the new if you’re in the know.

To access the Farmer Review, click here.

Alice Finney