SPRING STATEMENT REACTION

Our managing director David White reacts to today’s Spring Statement as Philip Hammond updates the country on progress made on announcements set out in the Autumn Budget.

Once again, in today’s Spring Statement there was a focus on supporting businesses, increasing skills and training opportunities and how technology and infrastructure improvements can help the UK compete in a global economy.

With National Apprenticeship Week still fresh in our minds, Mr Hammond outlined the government’s commitment to the new T Levels, making £80 million available to employers looking to take on T Level work placement students. With the Apprenticeship Levy expected to support a further 3 million apprenticeship starts by 2020, Mr Hammond announced that he did ‘recognise that there was a challenge to small businesses’ in taking on an apprentice, so relayed that the education secretary would be releasing £80 million to support small businesses in engaging an apprentice.

As an industry that relies heavily upon apprentices I’m pleased to see the government recognising their importance in combating the skills gap we’re experiencing in the engineering and construction industry. In some areas, we’re certainly struggling to recruit and, only through vocational training schemes, will we see a real difference in our industry.

It was also announced that bids are also now open for the construction skills fund, put in place to fund new construction skills villages – hopefully this will also go some way in creating the highly skilled workforce we so desperately need which is prepared to increase our productivity and compete in a global economy post-Brexit.

We are currently working on a number of high-profile housing schemes across the country – including sites in London and in Cambridgeshire – so I’m happy to hear that, through devolved powers, the regions are being able to agree more housing deals. Mr Hammond announced that the West Midlands has agreed a deal with the government which will see the delivery of more than 200,000 in the region by 2030/31, facilitated by a £100 million grant from the Land Remediation Fund.

With a Birmingham office and a strong presence in the West Midlands we’re delighted to hear that the region will see a boost and that more projects will finally be able to break ground.
As an industry, we were certainly concerned as to how Brexit would affect our future – but with a plan set to address the skills gap and safeguard our industry I feel confident that we can weather any potential storm; we certainly have done before.