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Mon September 23 2019

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Inquiry into Scottish construction calls for change

2 Jul Greater use of new technology such as off-site construction is vital for boosting productivity in Scottish construction, says a new parliamentary inquiry into the sector.

One suggested improvement is to encourage the use of off-site manufacturing
One suggested improvement is to encourage the use of off-site manufacturing

The inquiry by members of the Scottish Parliament also highlighted the need to address skills shortages and to focus on value rather than costs. 

Members of the Economy, Energy & Fair Work Committee had carried out the investigation in order to understand the characteristics and challenges of construction in Scotland. The sector employs 147,000 people in Scotland.

The committee said that it is essential that long-term value is the focus of public procurement rather than lowest cost. The Scottish government must consider how public authorities and businesses can be better supported to make this a reality, it said.

There is merit in considering a sector-specific approach to apprenticeship frameworks, it said, given the challenges of an ageing workforce, skills shortages and lack of diversity in the construction workforce.

Women only account for 12% of the current construction workforce. More must be done to encourage diversity and raise awareness of the broad range of careers available within the industry, said the report.

Innovation and off-site manufacture can be stifled by planning regulations and resistance to change. New technology is vital to improve productivity in the sector.

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The committee also found that construction businesses of all sizes struggle to access finance which can be a barrier to growth.

Committee convener Gordon Lindhurst said: “The construction industry in Scotland is valued and plays a significant role in the economy, but there are also longstanding challenges which we have set out in this report.

“A failure to focus on long-term value rather than simply on lowest cost, and a lack of finance are some of the barriers to productivity in the industry. While we saw pockets of good practice there was a lack of overall necessary change evident.

“For the sector to realise its potential and be equipped to tackle these challenges, the Scottish government must work together with industry to facilitate change across the whole sector.”

He added that this was the first time the committee has done an inquiry looking at a whole sector and how it contributes to the economy. “Only with sector-wide leadership, collaboration and cultural change, will the construction sector be able to share best practice, tackle these challenges and achieve its full potential in contributing to Scotland’s economy.”

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