Brexit has caused a lot of discussion around potential impacts, threats and mitigations. Like many organizations, we’ve been carefully monitoring the situation and talking to our building repair and restoration contractors about their views from the factory floor.
In a recent industry survey, 75% of our building contractors told us they had minimal concerns about the current political situation and the likelihood that it would affect their companies. The positive outlook and level of confidence may be connected to an individual's political views and whether respondents identify as a leaver or remainer. One contractor said, “No matter what happens, we will all survive and thrive from any given situation.”
Just under 25% of survey respondents went on to explain the recent issues they’ve faced involving material availability and shortages. These issues seem to be driven by some national contractors and developers stockpiling bricks, blocks, timber, tiles and, most noticeably, plasterboard. And the large percentage of contractors that were unaffected indicates that this is a regional issue.
However, the main concern expressed by contractors in the insurance building repair industry isn’t based on political leadership, Brexit, or materials. The problem on the horizon, and what some may call the elephant in the room, is a shortage of skills. Two-thirds of contractors surveyed shared that this is already a challenge for them. And surveyors aren’t the only shortage they’ve experienced. 100% of the respondents who saw this as a challenge also find it difficult to recruit tradesmen. But is this a Brexit-driven problem? Probably not. One contractor shared, “This has nothing to do with Brexit or anything political for that matter. There is a huge skill shortage across the whole industry, as well as a noticeable skills gap in new trades joining the industry and older trades retiring.”
There’s some recognition of this in our sector of construction and great work being done by the insurance apprenticeship academy to help develop the skills for the future, with a new program launching shortly. We know that technology is, and will continue to impact everything we do. But with 25 million houses in the UK — most of which have been traditionally built, and are likely to suffer peril damage — I can’t yet foresee how emerging technologies will replace tradesmen on insurance repair work.
Brexit will come and go but our challenge will continue. We’re always going to need plasterers who can complete small patch repairs to finishes after subsidence cracks have been perfected. We’re always going to need bricklayers who can cut new sections of brick wall after impact damage. And we’ll always need decorators who can re-paper a bedroom after water damage. Our challenge is to position the construction sector as the employment sector of choice, and to attract younger generations who see the potential for meaningful and fulfilling long-term careers. We’re in a unique part of the construction industry, with the ability to help people when things have gone wrong with their homes, and help make it right. That’s the message to promote if we are going to ensure stability in tomorrow’s workforce.