BUILD Q3 2018

45 Q3 2018 Build rexit, in the minds of many in the construction industry, contin- ues to represent a looming cloud of uncertainty hanging over any future decision making. Whatever your personal opinions on the EU, it’s undeniable that the Brexit vote is already having repercussions – even with so many aspects currently undecided and up in the air. Fear of the unknown and apprehension over what’s to come is fostering many insecurities. One of the foremost fears of those harbouring doubts over the impact of Brexit is that skilled workers originating from the EU, will simply head back over the Channel to work elsewhere once the Brexit bill is eventually passed. The resultant gap in the workforce then stands no chance of being plugged thanks to restrictions on any further migration, leaving construction industry leaders to worry key projects will fall behind schedule, incurring higher costs amid widespread disruption. These fears are both understandable and, indeed, plausible. According to Deloitte, 26% of the UK construction workforce is from the EU, with this figure even higher in some stages of the construction process that are more labour-intensive. Demand for the workforce is also rising. The UK Government is continuing to invest in the housebuilding industry, with the target set at 300,000 new homes a year by mid-2020, while recent figures from the CITB1 suggest over 150,000 construction jobs are set to be created over the next five years, despite Brexit uncertainty. But, even with demand for their services set to soar, it’s worth bearing in mind that skilled tradespeople have always been in high demand, even prior to Brexit. And despite a shortage of skilled labour, the industry has still managed to thrive and expand. We’re confident that the construction industry can cope with the impact of Brexit. Obviously, a core part of coping involves the acceleration of training and the expansion of UK-based recruitment to try and bolster existing resourc- es. But this isn’t the only solution worth looking at as other methods can offer support, helping to ease the stress on project managers. Surface repair, for instance, is a prime example of an oft underexploited ser- vice that can offer its assistance. Repair specialists command a broad range of capabilities that can help to ease the burden on overstretched trades. Often, if there’s damage to a surface, a specific tradesperson – such as a carpenter, plasterer, tiler or plumber – tends to be the first port of call, with replacement the thing foremost in mind. However, finishers – the industry term that we at Plastic Surgeon use for our repair specialists – have a wide skillset covering any number of substrates and surface types, which means they’re able to make wide ranging repairs, freeing up trade resource. The number of things that can be repaired far outweighs those that can’t. Our specialists are able to put right damage to brick, stonework, concrete, metal, glass, ceramics, plastics and more. If, taking a housebuilding site for an example, multiple incidents of damage have occurred during a home’s construction (something that’s practically inevitable during busy projects), we can come in and make multiple repairs at a time. This saves both time and money, as the damage is rectified quickly, while also negating the need to recall multiple trades to the site. It also frees those trades up to progress with other work – namely, that of ac- tual construction, while being considerably cheaper than full replacement. Repair specialists are often called in to add the finishing touches during the handover period. Ensuring this is done efficiently at the end of projects helps to avoid delays, while keeping projects on budget. Opting for a replacement approach to rectifying surface damage rather than repair can cause further delays – with the need to wait for a replacement item, which then needs installation – driving up costs. Another knock-on effect of repairing rather than replacing is the positive environmental impact. Saving vast amounts of items from landfill (last year alone, after conducting 640,000 individual repairs, we saved over 135,000 items from landfill – equating to 3,474 tonnes of waste, or nearly 300 double-decker buses) helps firms achieve Corporate Social Responsibility targets; something that’s increasingly important in a more environmentally aware society. Demonstrating commitment to a greener way of working can also boost recruitment – making your company a more attractive place to work thanks to positivity around the brand. Of course, surface repair is just one element. There’s no denying that specialist trades are required for certain jobs. But the fact is, there are services out there that can ease the pressure on contractors to get the job done on time. With the availability of skilled tradespeople likely to become an increasing problem in a post-Brexit world, turning to other resources that can help meet demand is sure to become increasingly essential. Repair: filling the gap left by a potential exodus of skilled EU workers Gary Danson, Operations Director at Plastic Surgeon, the UK’s market-leading specialist surface repair firm, answers the question of how repair specialists can help counteract any potential exodus of skilled EU workers. B