Since its publication in late 2020, the Construction Playbook has been a huge focus for change across the industry. Through effective use, the industry will be able to build back better and drive truly transformative change through a sector-wide collaborative effort. National framework provider Pagabo recently brought together a panel of experts to examine some of the radical changes the Playbook principles will drive forwards, including the UK’s levelling up agenda, taking a balanced outlook on cost versus value, and the all-important topic of future skills and training within the industry.
Pagabo’s Executive Chairman Gerard Toplass and Non-Executive Chairman Lord Bob Kerslake were joined by Dr Nicola Thompson, Group Compliance and Performance Director at multi-disciplinary consultancy Pick Everard, and Rob Byrnes, Head of Frameworks at Vinci Construction for the discussion.
Costs versus value – a balanced approach
There is a shared consensus that there is still a lot of education to be done with clients across the industry on the importance of examining whole life cost rather than just capital cost for any scheme. In a post-pandemic landscape in which most clients are very occupied by cost and budget requirements, it has never been more important to work closely with clients on this matter. Organisations across the industry are working hard with clients on this, assisting clients with their understanding and requirement assessment to help them ensure tenders contain a balanced mix of cost and value.
During the discussion, all speakers agreed that recent steps from the Government — while slower than we may all perhaps like to see — are moving in the right direction, with the changes to social value assessment for central government being a prime example of this.
Lord Kerslake brought a unique perspective to this social value discussion, having been working within the government at a time when there was a huge focus on cost following the financial crash. This period of time saw the additional elements that we now focus on in social value — such as training and skills — taken out of the equation in procurement.
The Social Value Act (2012) and the more recent changes to assessment for central government are reversing those earlier changes and taking them further than ever before. We are however facing a unique set of challenges, building social value back into the built environment with a greater focus on the local and personal impact on communities at a time when overall cost will be incredibly important to clients.
A blended approach to social value measurement is needed, particularly as there are areas of the industry that are only just beginning to grasp social value. Some clients are still looking for monetary figures, while others are looking beyond that to the ‘real life’ impact — so it will be important to examine how both sides of this can be evaluated, to educate clients on the importance of both and to demystify some of the language around social value practices.
Levelling up and transformational change will attract the workforce of tomorrow
The core issue around levelling up is about rebalancing the UK economy, not putting the north and south against each other. Post-pandemic this is more important than ever, and elements of the Construction Playbook will play into this critical agenda.
Transparent pipelines will have an important role in the all-important investment required to level up the country. The Playbook does give signposts on commercial pipelines, which set us up to commit to many of the other principles outlined.
Visibility of the pipeline of work allows for confident investment in the various things such as skills and digital tools to improve productivity and processes, and to drive innovation within the market — all things that will work towards a brighter future for the whole industry and to tackling the current skills and labour shortage we are facing.
40,000 young people enter into further education courses related to our industry, yet only 25% of them go into industry jobs per year. There is a clear problem with intake into the sector that we must tackle. Every walk of our life is impacted by built environment professionals, so we have to ensure our sector is adapting to attract the best workforce possible to continue creating the excellent buildings, facilities and environments we all use and enjoy every day.
The people entering into the industry now will be the ones running it in the future, meaning we need to adapt the way we train our workforce and make sure it meets their expectations. We also need to work on retaining people even if they want to move into different types of jobs, helping them to move around within the industry rather than exiting it.
There is a challenge to be faced in balancing more traditional courses like architecture with new skills and ways of learning without cutting any corners.
As an industry, we focus on talking about roles like engineers when we are talking about what the sector has to offer career-wise — but we possess so much more scope than that and if we are to close the skills gap, we have to showcase that range and potential.
Ultimately, the Playbook will be driving us to create a more robust industry that is data-driven, fosters real innovation and makes better use of modern methods of construction. The industry has so far been painfully slow to innovate, with Lord Kerslake noting that he was involved in a working group on MMC years ago, yet the industry is still only on the cusp of beginning to use these methods.
An increased move towards these new methods and processes lends itself to a different attitude towards training — focusing on a portfolio of skills that are shorter than traditional routes, but ultimately leave an individual with a wider range of skills to use across the industry. Plus, as innovation takes off, we don’t know what other new job roles and skills we will need, so this requires an ongoing adjustment approach — the industry must provide a life of careers, not just a career for life.