The construction industry is always keen to take on the next generation of workers; skilled people who will carry on to high levels of technique, loyalty as well as determination. What a great idea this college in Cumbria has had to give students a try at all aspects of construction. So they can choose exactly which are they want to specialise in.

Apparently Furness College in Cumbria offers their students a “Construction Carousel”.

School leavers interested in a career in the construction industry are now able to try each specialist field before they settle on what to study.

Furness College has developed an innovative programme enabling its students to try all four areas – carpentry and joinery, painting and decorating, plastering and also brickwork. Before they decide which one they want to pursue.

After the 10 week ‘carousel’ round the four areas they can then pick one and complete a City and Guilds Level 1 Award and Diploma in Construction Skills.

Graeme Shaw, who leads construction at the college, said all the construction trades were in high demand in the area.

“The work our students produce enables them to go into industry with top quality skills. But we know not all 16 year olds are sure what to specialise in so this course has been restructured to make sure they get a taste of everything before they decide.”

We think this is a great idea for all areas of study. It is a tough industry, as many are, and students need to be the right fit for their career choice. This “try before you buy” option is a perfect idea for all students!

One report taken from the Construction Enquirer, shows that nearly three-quarters of MPs support late payment reforms; including fines for big firms who persistently delay paying their supply chain. A YouGov poll commissioned by the Association of Accounting Technicians (AAT) showed 73% of MPs agree with the three changes AAT has recommended be made to the voluntary Prompt Payment Code.

These are that the Code:

  • be made compulsory for companies employing more than 250 employees
  • see maximum payment terms halved from 60 to 30 days
  • be supported by a clear, simple financial penalty regime for persistent late payers, enforced by the Small Business Commissioner

Phil Hall, AAT Head of Public Affairs & Public Policy, said: “Late payments lead to thousands of insolvencies every year, damage productivity, restrict investment and can also impact on the mental health of small business owners and their employees.

“Government action to tackle this problem, from the voluntary payment code to compulsory but feeble reporting requirements – as well as the creation of a Small Business Commissioner with no real power – have all predictably failed to stem the scourge of late payments.

With almost three quarters of MPs from across the political divide supporting AAT’s recommendations for payment reform, it’s very difficult for the Government to continue to drag their heels and back the status quo.

“We trust that the Small Business Minister will bear these facts in mind when she considers what to do next.”

No MP disagreed with the proposals, which have already gained the backing of construction industry campaigners.

The Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS) recently held a public Call for Evidence on the issue of late payments and says it is currently “analysing feedback”.

Just a reminder that, as workers within the UK’s construction industry, you should ensure that you are making full utilisation of HMRC’s flat-rate expenses scheme. Don’t miss out on your full available tax relief. Tax preparation specialist David Redfern, Managing Director of DSR Tax Claims Ltd, issued this as a reminder to construction workers on the run up to year end.

According to the tax experts at DSR Tax Claims Ltd, most can use flat-rate expenses as an easier way of claiming tax relief on work-related expenses without the hassle of having to keep receipts or detailed financial records. HMRC sets a “flat rate” of expense that can be claimed, rather than employees claiming the actual cost of work expenses.

These expenses can comprise such items as tools, protective and safety gear and cost of professional subscriptions. Redfern is urging all construction workers to ensure that you are fully utilising your employee tax relief, stating that “It might surprise many construction workers to discover just how quickly their work expenses can add up – whether they relate to their work uniform or the cost of obtaining and maintaining their CSCS (Construction Skills Certification Scheme) card”. He added that “Not everyone can be bothered with the fuss of claiming for each and every receipt they get and that is where HMRC’s flat-rate expense scheme comes in – by fully utilising this tax relief scheme, construction workers can make sure that they are still claiming their available tax relief without the need to keep time-consuming in-depth financial records. In the run up to Christmas, every penny counts and all you need to do is fill in a simple HMRC form”.

Redfern reminded construction workers that flat-rate expenses are only applicable to construction workers who work for an employer and pay tax via the PAYE (Pay As You Earn) system. Construction contractors who are part of the CIS (Construction Industry Scheme) are required to use the Simplified Expenses scheme in conjunction with their Self Assessment tax return instead. He commented that “Although CIS workers can’t use flat-rate expenses as they are for employees only, contractors can still make easy work of their expenses by using HMRC’s simplified expenses scheme. Although you can’t claim the actual cost of your expenses, simplified expenses can help you to make full use of the tax relief options open to you”.

Redfern finished with a word of warning to those tempted to abuse the tax relief schemes, stating that “HMRC take tax compliance very seriously and although flat-rate and simplified expenses are an easy way to claim tax relief, HMRC’s system of fines and penalties will soon outweigh the benefit where tax evasion is discovered”.

 

With less than five months to go until the UK officially leaves the EU, Brexit issues and concerns are now regularly featuring in construction contract negotiations.

Since the result of the 2016 referendum, the potential impact of labour shortages and costs of materials have been widely discussed.

As regards workforce, the UK construction industry relies very heavily on migrant workers. These would be split by skilled and unskilled, with a significant proportion of them being workers coming from the EU.

And as regards tariffs, tariff-free trade is a key factor in the UK construction sector’s ability to deliver projects within reasonable budgets.

Brexit could result in a reduction to the workforce available to the UK construction sector. Along with this, if the UK leaves the EU without the ability to trade with the EU (and other countries) on a tariff-free basis, then the impact on both costs and deliverability of projects could be a major problem.

This will be a huge source of frustration for construction, given the government’s commitments to deliver housing and key infrastructure projects. As well as the private sector’s opportunity to take advantage of property development opportunities.

It is therefore no surprise, that construction contracts currently under negotiation are seeing a greater than ever focus on Brexit implications.

The problem is (and this has been the theme of 2018) that nobody actually knows what Brexit will look like. Hard or soft borders? Trade deals or no trade deals? So whilst there is growing concern over the continuing uncertainty, there can’t really be any answers until the picture becomes clearer.

So for the moment, contract negotiation on Brexit type issues has really centred on who takes the risk.

Changes in law are often risks that are borne by the employer or developer. Most standard contracts provide a format for dealing with this. But as it becomes more and more likely that changes in law will inevitably take place post Brexit, developers are looking for contractors to share some of that risk with them. The rationale being that these are not really unforeseeable changes in law now, but rather changes in law that are highly likely.

Watch this space – we will report more when the situation becomes a little clearer.

Construction services company ISG and examination board WJEC have developed a new qualification for the construction industry, scheduled to be launched at the House of Commons, at an event hosted by Christina Rees.

It is the first Applied Diploma in Professional Construction Practice in the UK and aimed at students who would typically confine their studies to key STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering 7 Mathematics) subjects. The goal of this new Professional Construction Practice (PCP) course is to improve the perception of the construction industry and make it easier for young people to advance to Level 4 built environment qualifications.

Worth the equivalent of an A level or up to 56 UCAS points, it explores modern practices in construction management. The course modules will be:

  • Use of drones in the construction industry
  • An intro to BIM (Building Information Modelling)
  • VR and AI in the built environment
  • Laser scanning technology

This new qualification has been designed to make careers in construction more appealing and will be a major push for interest from new students.

Paul Cossell, ISG Chief Executive, said that the main problem in the construction industry is that one-third of its workers is now over 50 and not enough is being done to educate young people and expose them to the great opportunities available in an industry that delivers the homes, schools, hospitals, and infrastructure that support modern existence. Mr. Cossell said that the new construction qualification is the ISG’s response to attracting young people. It offers a Level 3 qualification that can complement current STEM subjects.

According to the ITV News, construction output hit a record high in July, with The UK economy bouncing back and construction output reaching a record high.

On a three-month basis, the services sector grew by 0.6% on the back of a rise in retail and wholesale trading. This was really bolstered by growth in food sales during the World Cup and also the exceptionally hot weather, which kept businesses far busier than usual.

Construction also performed strongly, rising 0.5% in July on the back of stronger than usual growth in housebuilding for this time of year. It sent construction output to a record high, with the sector growing 3.3% on a three-month basis.

Commenting on the figures, the Office for National Statistics’ head of GDP Rob Kent-Smith said: “Growth in the economy picked up in the three months to July.

“The dominant service sector again led economic growth in the month of July with engineers, accountants and lawyers all enjoying a busy period, backed up by growth in construction, which hit another record high level.”

At Kelsey Plant Hire, we have had the busiest summer ever. With the introduction of our range of electric diggers and electric dumpers, our bookings have increased and machines are in real demand. We are now hoping for a mild winter with no snow!

Please call Kelsey Plant Hire on 01403 249125 or email us to check on availability.

Data from the Office for National Statistics and industry surveys show that the number of women in construction has not increased significantly, despite attempts to increase female representation.

Women in construction

At the end of 2016, approximately 27 million people were working in the UK. The divide between men and women was nearly 50-50. However, 2.3 million had jobs in the construction industry and only 296,000 were women. In this case, the split is 87-13. It’s an alarming wake-up call.

The ONS data shows that the percentage of women in construction is scarcely higher than it was before the recession, despite the industry’s active efforts to attract new recruits and access wider talent pools.

In the fourth quarter of 2016, women represented only 12.8% of the construction workforce. While there has been some post-recession improvement, the proportion of women in construction has grown only slightly: in the fourth quarter of 2007, they represented 12.1% of the workforce.

Nadine Clark, Managing Director of Kelsey Plant Hire is quoted saying:

I really like to see women in construction roles. It is fantastic to see women in this industry. In the past, they may have been wary of the construction industry due to the image it can portray. However, being a women in this industry can be a very positive career move.

Schools need to be encouraging girls to look at the construction industry as a whole, there are so many roles that are an option for them. Its not just about builders and bricklayers. There is so much more to it and there are great careers out there for women. With many successfully filling the higher roles these days, this is a really positive move.

The construction industry needs to attract more women

Housebuilder Keepmoat commissioned a survey that revealed equally troubling insights: it showed that only 13% of women aged 16-35 would consider a construction career. Many say that the figure is not surprising given the ‘male builder’ stereotypes that still exist, and that the construction industry needs to do more to attract women.

Other surveys suggest that the opportunities for women need to be more evident. The Keepmoat survey showed that 56% of respondents were surprised to learn that a lot of women were employed at executive, manager and director level in construction. On hearing of these opportunities, 72% said that the industry needed to do more to highlight them. After completing the survey, 45% of young women said they were more interested in a construction career compared to only 13% before.

The key message is that more needs to be done to retain the best and brightest women in the construction industry. More firms are understanding that diversity brings a host of benefits, so there are signs that things are starting to change.

According to the Office of National Statistics male construction workers are 3 times more likely to commit suicide than other industries. More than 1,400 construction workers took their own lives between the years of 2011 and 2015. The highest of any profession in this period. Of the 1,419 people working in skilled construction building trades who took their own lives from 2011 to 2015, 1,409 were men and just 10 were women.

At any given time, across England and Wales, one worker in six is said to be experiencing depression, anxiety or other stress related problems. Assuming an industry population of 2.1 million people (from 2009 figures from the Office of National Statistics) therefore 6% of the UK workforce; that suggests 350,000 construction professionals may be affected. And this figure will be a growing problem for the construction industry.

Gail Cartmail, acting general secretary at trade union Unite, claims these startling numbers suggest employers in the industry are “failing in their duty of care to their workforce”.

“This is the latest evidence that the industry’s hire-and-fire culture is fundamentally unhealthy and is a major factor in these terrible and needless tragedies,” she argues.

“In the short term we need to be raising awareness of the suicide risk in construction and explaining where workers can receive confidential support. We also need to be ensuring that far higher numbers of workers, including union safety reps, are trained in mental health first aid.”

This is particularly true of those aged 40 and above, with the statistics suggesting this age group is the most vulnerable.

Terry Rigby, director at social enterprise Forward For Life, which provides suicide prevention training to businesses, says this age group is the most at risk across the whole country.

“It’s the biggest killer of men under 50, and a lot of it is around identity,” he says, adding that the changes to society over the past 30 years have made manual workers all the more vulnerable. “A lot of men have found themselves unemployable,” he suggests, arguing that opportunities to find work through many traditional forms of manual labour have become increasingly few and far between.

He adds that, for construction and other trades, where the source of the next pay cheque isn’t always clear and where a macho culture dominates, this problem is even more obvious. “Blokes don’t talk,” he adds.

Knowing the signs

Whilst poor mental health can manifest itself differently from individual to individual, the Construction Financial Management Association has set out some useful signs to look out for that can indicate poorly managed or untreated mental health conditions:

  • increased lateness, absenteeism and presenteeism (showing up to work physically, but not being able to function)
  • decreased productivity due to distraction and cognitive slowing
  • lack of self-confidence
  • isolation from peers
  • agitation and increased interpersonal conflict among co-workers
  • increased voluntary and involuntary attrition
  • increased feelings of being overwhelmed
  • decreased problem-solving ability.

Some of the more hidden manifestations of mental health issues may contribute to the following factors:

  • Legal and illicit substance abuse affecting workplace performance
  • Quality defects leading to waste and rework impacting profit margins
  • Near hits, incidents, and injuries affecting safety and risk performance metrics

Obviously these points are vital for accuracy in the construction industry.

What can employers do?

The statistics as they stand are not acceptable. Mental health definitely needs to be made an urgent priority by all employers in the construction industry.

Emily Pearson, Head of Workplace Wellbeing at Be.The Centre for Wellbeing (a mental health charity based in Newcastle upon Tyne specialising in corporate mental health and workplace wellbeing) has provided the following steps that all employers can take to actively improve the health and wellbeing of their workforce.

  • Culture check – Undertake a culture check to establish the culture of the workforce and where there may be particular pain points for staff due to job design and work-related stress.
  • Culture change – A change in the culture surrounding mental health needs to start at the top. Leadership teams can show commitment to creating a culture change towards mentally healthier workplaces and workforces by signing the Time to Change Pledge or by investing in a Workplace Wellbeing Strategy to create culture change in a safe and structured manner.
  • Mental health safety net – Employers should ensure their employees have access to and are aware of support available through counselling and therapy services.
  • Up-skilling and education – Team leaders responsible for supporting employees should have sufficient knowledge and skills to be able to spot the signs of poor mental health and to provide support and guidance.
  • Peer support – Employers should up-skill and educate employees so they can look out for any peers who may be struggling with their mental health. Knowing how to start the conversation and knowing how to safely signpost peers to mental health services can make a huge difference at the early signs of mental health difficulty.
  • Reduce stigma – Employers need to reduce stigma, raise awareness, change attitudes and provide knowledge to empower employees to look after their mental health and wellbeing.
  • Embed and repeat – It is essential that employers continue to provide these interventions, services and training in order to embed culture change – not just tick the mental health box.

Commercial Factors

Employers need to prioritise mental health in the workplace for commercial reasons too. Unrecognised and unsupported mental health issues can have a massive impact on a company’s revenue. According to the National Building Specification, mental health issues account for people taking almost 70 million days off sick per year – the most of any health condition – costing the UK economy between £70Bn and £100Bn a year.

According to the Construction Enquirer, Network Rail has challenged both engineers and architects to radically rethink designs for rail footbridges.

Network Rail says that ideas for the next generation of fully accessible footbridges should be “innovative, challenge presumptions and raise expectations for the quality of future designs.” 

A RIBA design contest has now been launched that is open internationally to practising architects, structural engineers, civil engineers or even students. In developing their proposals, entrants are encouraged to consider how their accessible footbridge designs might be adapted for use in other settings such as at level crossings.

Network Rail owns just under 2,400 footbridges, providing access across the railway for both passengers at stations and people using rights of way. 

As part of the Department for Transport’s “Access for All” programme, Network Rail has installed 200 footbridges since 2006.

The AfA funding initiative was established to improve accessibility at railway stations through the creation of obstacle free routes from station entrances to platforms.  

The competition will be organised over a single phase, involving the anonymous submission and appraisal of design proposals. A Design Fund of £20,000 will be available for award at discretion of the judging panel to the submission, judged to be the best response to the challenges outlined in the Competition Brief

Network Rail's Footbridge Design ChallengeAnthony Dewar,  Head of Buildings and Architecture at Network Rail, said:  “We’re challenging the architectural and engineering community to come up with new and innovative ideas for footbridge structures that will be both functional in form and sympathetic to the communities that they serve.”

“The winning design concept will also need to protect and enhance the great legacy of engineering design that is inherent in railway history.  We’re excited to see the solutions that will be put forward.”

The competition was launched on 22 June 2018, with the deadline for design submissions commencing on 19 September 2018. The judging panel meeting will be Monday 8 October 2018.

According to CRL, Construction Insurance Specialists, construction output in the UK has experienced it’s biggest decline since August 2012. This perhaps reinforces concerns that economic growth for the first quarter of 2018 has been slow. Figures released by the Office for National Statistics indicate a decline of 2.7% in the first three months of the year. This is the largest 3 month reduction since 2012, driven by lower levels of repair and maintenance as well as new construction.

Obviously the continuing bad weather at the start of the year would have definitely played a part and indeed Keley Plant Hire had a few issues getting machines out and about as well as staff into the yard. However, overall this Horsham plant machinery company has been going from strength to strength, having one of our busiest years to date.

This will partly be due to the amazing response we have had to the new electric diggers and electric dumpers we have taken into stock. They have been booked out continuously since their arrival which is great news.

Hybrid Electric Mini Diggers

Perhaps the south east of England was also not hit as hard with bad weather, as areas in more northern counties. Although there was great excitement to have a bit of longed for snow! However, the south east recovered quickly (it never lasts long here!) and normal service was resumed.

Along with all the standard machines we have in stock, including telehandlers and rollers, you also have the choice of standard or hybrid mini diggers as well as standard or hybrid dumpers.

If you are looking for plant hire and want to make an enquiry, then please call us on 01403 249125. We can get you booked in, or answer any questions you may have.