Unlocking Success: Navigating Wales’s Construction Landscape

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Unlocking Success Navigating Wales Construction Landscape

Leaders from Wales’s construction sector came together to look at radical new ways to improve the industry at Building the Future Commission's final regional roundtable last year.

Shedding light on the vibrant yet challenging dynamics of the industry, the roundtable, supported by AtkinsRéalis, explored avenues to propel the sector forward amid economic shifts and a looming skills shortage.

“Construction is a really big part of our economy – it represents over 100,000 jobs and is actually a bit more vibrant,” said Vaughan Gething, Minister for the Economy in the Welsh government. He acknowledged the hurdles of recession predictions and labour shortages, but underlined the sector's undeniable upside.

“There are opportunities around retrofit; there are people in this sector who are committed to its future. I’m interested in how we accept and recognise what the challenges are and then reflect what we think the opportunities are. In my role as minister, I want to be clear about both sides of that,” Gething continued.

Hosted by Building’s editorial director Chloë McCulloch, the roundtable featured industry stalwarts deeply rooted in the Welsh construction landscape, including Jane O'Leary, ISG's Sector Director for Education.

“Skills, innovation and sustainability are incredibly important to the sector and Wales as a whole. Collaboration and unification will continue to be pivotal to the Welsh economy and the construction projects that are driving the transformation of our towns and cities."

Jane O'Leary, Sector Director for Education, ISG

Prohibitive procurement routes for SMEs and persistent skills and labour shortages took centre stage in the discussion. Ann-Marie Smale of Powell Dobson Architects stressed the need for streamlined procurement, emphasising inefficiencies in the current system. Jane O'Leary echoed the call for a unified approach to procurement, MMC utilisation, and project delivery.

“While the Consortium of Local Authorities in Wales (CLAW) has tried to come up with a coherent approach for not only procurement but also MMC use and project delivery, there is definitely an opportunity to be seized if a unified system can be developed in these areas.”

Jane O'Leary, Sector Director for Education, ISG

The discussion pivoted to potential solutions. Catherine Griffith-Williams, CEO of Construction Excellence Wales, underscored the Well-being of Future Generations (Wales) Act as a catalyst for meaningful social value delivery. The Act, if harnessed effectively, could inspire and reshape the sector.

As the roundtable concluded, key proposals emerged. A visible pipeline of public work, tapping into diverse labour markets, ensuring meaningful social value, and capitalising on broader opportunities such as offshore wind farms were recommended. The roundtable emphasised the critical role of procurement, the importance of knowledge-sharing, and the necessity of aligning goals across the sector, including training providers. These insights will guide the Building the Future Commission's mission to enhance the industry.

The Building the Future Commission is a year-long project, launched to mark Building Magazine’s 180th anniversary, to assess potential solutions and radical new ways of thinking. ‘How Wales can make the most of construction’ was published in December 2023. You can read the full article here.

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