How do Small Trade Businesses Drive the Industry?

Here at, we are painfully aware of the huge shortage of youngsters coming through the industry, we asked Maria Coulter to look at the situation for us and give us her take on what’s going on – from her position within the Construction Industry Council – and how it is impacting right through the industry. Hopefully she can help to shed some light on how we can all work to find the solutions to breathe new (young) life into our industry.

Welcome to my first blog on the BTG website. My name is Maria Coulter and I started my career with a BTEC in Building Studies in 1988. I then went on to become a Chartered Quantity Surveyor (which usually gets some pantomime style boos!) then became a Project Manager and a Risk Manager. In 2012 I retrained as a Personal and Business Coach and I now have my own business, Construction Coach.

I also have a strategic role in the industry as a board member of the Construction Industry Council (CIC).

With this role I get to attend conferences and events and find out what is happening in our industry with the government and organisations who are looking to bring change and hopefully make it more efficient and attractive to the next generation.

You’ll be pleased to know that, whatever event or conference I’m at I always bang the drum of SME’s (Small Medium Enterprises of less than 250 employees) and Micro-Businesses (less than 10 employees). You are the backbone of the industry and make up the bulk of it.

There are approximately 180,000 construction firms in the UK, 96% with less than 8 employees. Judging by the Facebook group (yes, they even let a Q.S in!) I am guessing that the bulk of you fall into this category. You are also responsible for 75% of the turnover of the UK construction industry.

So, the reason why I keep banging the drum about your businesses is that you are vitally important to the industry. You may not feel it on a daily basis but collectively you are so I’m really pleased to have this opportunity to interact with you here.

First of all, did you know that the industry has a Construction Leadership Council? They are a group of leaders who meet regularly with the government and are looking at how the industry can improve.

Here are some recent headlines from the Construction Leadership Council Conference I went to a couple of weeks ago:

The Challenge

  • There is a pipeline of £650b of infrastructure and construction projects across the UK between 2017 and 2025. This is just public sector work, there are also billions of pounds being spent in the Private Sector. In total £150b / year is being spent on public and private sector construction.
  • The government has launched a plan to build 1million new homes by 2020.
  • There is a productivity gap. Gross Value Added / hr worked in Construction is lower than the national average and the loss in value is £15b which is the equivalent to building another Cross Rail project.
  • Not that I’m saying you’re old, but an average of 43% of the workforce are over 50 and only 9% are between 16 and 24.
  • The industry is predicted to grow by 2.6% every year.
  • Brexit will reduce free movement of workforce and leave a gap in the industry currently being filled by migration.
  • To deliver the pipeline of work we need to increase productivity by 22%

The Solution

  • Attracting more young people into the industry to replace the ageing workforce, simple, right? I’m just setting the scene with this blog and will provide more information on what is being done in future blogs.
  • Increasing Off-Site Manufacturing. For example, houses and schools can be built off site reducing the amount of time and labour needed to build and improve productivity, quality and safety. Remember, we need more people which we don’t have so this won’t lead to unemployment.
  • The use of more Digital Technology to produce computerised models of buildings to enable them to be built more efficiently and problems to be spotted and solved earlier. Using more digital systems and processes in business such as accountancy software and apps can also save time.

What does this mean for you?

  • You are a group of individuals but collectively you make a massive difference to the industry.
  • Knowing that there is a good pipeline of work will help you to make decisions as to whether or not you can take on an Apprentice.
  • Research has indicated that a 25% increase in productivity could almost double the UK average profit margin in construction companies.

I will leave it there for now but hopefully I’ve given you a taste of what is happening in the industry, the challenges, the solutions being looked at and what it could mean for you. I will continue to keep you updated and share solutions with you in the coming months.

4 thoughts on “How do Small Trade Businesses Drive the Industry?

  • 28th April 2019 at 2:43 pm

    Fantastic read, I have recently taken on a apprentice and he is good and listens and I am really impressed with him and I truly believe he will stick with it, it is hard when just starting off as I remember but I have been a Painter and Decorator for 33 years now and still loving it.
    George Coull

    • Liz Gribbin
      28th April 2019 at 3:43 pm

      Glad you enjoyed the article George, taking on an apprentice can really work for you when you find someone who is committed to their learning. Glad to hear you’re still loving your trade too, maybe that is why your apprentice is ready to learn too.

  • 28th April 2019 at 3:47 pm

    It was so nice to find someone to do a trade rather than like most teenagers who just want to to do IT and earn big money.
    I love my job as a Painter and Decorator couldn’t imagine doing anything else.

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