Building A Great Future

Issue 99

By Neil Ramsey, director secretary, Northern Counties Builders Federation

Northern Counties Builders Federation (NCBF) has committed to an ongoing appraisal of the key issues facing North East-based SMEs in the delivery of construction projects in the region.

Adapting to customer and social demands within an ever-changing business environment, is a challenge our members are more than capable of.

We have a diverse membership, from new and rapidly growing members such as RE:GEN Group and Able construction, to the well-established, such as Brims and Walter Thompson. Add to this firms such as Compass Developments, Sendrig Construction and NB Clark and we are an influential and powerful body.

All members provide data to assist the NCBF to identify key issues. We are particularly interested in data around daily productivity and delivery challenges, upon which, we set our goals and objectives.

Our focus for 2024, is to attract talented individuals into the industry and we will drive this in a number of ways.

In 2023, we relaunched the North East Schools Wonder Challenge, alongside Constructing Excellence North East and a number of support partners. It is a call to action to schools within the NELEP areas of Tyne & Wear, Northumberland and Durham to challenge year 9 and 10 students to form mini construction companies. The challenge raises the profile of the construction sector amongst schools and highlights the career opportunities available.

We will also highlight the sector and the jobs available within it, to individuals looking for a career change or who are mature entrants. In line with this, RE:GEN and others are offering boot camps on how to become career ready, providing opportunities via social enterprise.

Another key aim is to highlight to women the variety of roles available to them. Our senior vice president, Angela Carney, is passionate about encouraging women and young people to learn more about the sector and is an active member of the regional branch of the National Association of Women in Construction. (NAWIC).

By working closely with other influencing organisations, such as Constructing Excellence North East (CENE), Construction Industry Council (CIC) National Association of Women in Construction, (NAWIC), GenerationforChange (G4C) and Construction Alliance Network (CAN) and participating on working groups and sub committees, we are able to contribute to wider industry debate.

We will work with a number of North East colleges such as Hartlepool and Sunderland, to improve communication between the industry and the training colleges, so the correct training can be provided and opportunities for full time employment or on-the-job training, can be on offer to the students either at the end of the training or during it.

Commercial Focus (Payment)

Challenges to companies, including cash flow, becomes more prevalent when working within the supply chain of large contractors. Using the combined influence of the members of CAN, we will continue to influence procurement organisations to ensure fair payment terms are not only included in any primary contacting arrangements, but within the subsequent supply chain contractual agreements.

Commercial (Regional Focus within Procurement)

We will lobby procurement organisations such as NEPO to ensure North East companies are recognised as able to carry out significant contracts within the region, and to make sure the regional contractor base brings greater value in terms of employment and wealth retention.

We will also engage with the major construction clients in the region (mainly public services) to convince them of the value of using regional construction companies within framework agreements to carry out their projects.

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