Cruden Group

Construction output rises

Construction output grew by 0.9% between April to June, recovering from a 0.8% fall in the first quarter, according to the Office for National Statistics.

The quarter-on-quarter increase in construction output in Quarter 2 2018 was driven by a 2.7% increase in repair and maintenance work, with all new work remaining flat.

Following four consecutive months of contraction in the month-on-month series at the start of 2018, construction output increased by 1.4 per cent between May and June 2018;this follows an increase of 2.9% between April and May 2018.

The June 2018 month-on-month growth in construction output was driven predominantly by the continued growth in infrastructure new work, which increased by 9.2%.

Allan Callaghan, managing director of Cruden Building, said: “It’s encouraging to see output figures rise this month but for continued growth in the sector, we need to increase the number of people choosing to work in construction.With Scottish school pupils receiving their exam results just a few days ago, thoughts of career choices are top of mind. Many have aspirations to go to university but in reality, young people with apprenticeships are among the most employable in the country, not to mention becoming equipped with valuable practical skills and a good salary.

“Apprenticeships provide the lifeblood to the construction industry. This week saw twelve new apprentices start with Cruden across a variety of trades and skills. These direct apprentices will become part of the 90 strong team of apprentices that we train every year across the Group.  Our commitment to skills development, through our Cruden Academy, is allowing us to build up a sustainable pool of talent which the industry so desperately needs.”

‘Not all doom and gloom’ as construction continues to decline

Allan Callaghan

There are signs for optimism in the new construction data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS), despite a third consecutive three-month on three-month decline in output.

Figures out today revealed that construction output continued its recent decline in the three-month on three-month series, falling by 1.7% in May 2018. The fall represents the third consecutive decline in the three-month on three-month series.

The fall in construction output was driven predominantly by a fall in new work, which also fell for the third consecutive month, decreasing by 2.5% in May 2018.

Following a broadly negative start to 2018 in the month-on-month series, construction output showed signs of recovery in May 2018, increasing by 2.9% compared with April 2018.

The month-on-month growth in construction output was in part driven by the recovery of private housing repair and maintenance work, which grew 7.3% in May 2018 following a weak start to the year.

Allan Callaghan, managing director of Cruden Building, said a further dip in total output is “disappointing, but it’s not all doom and gloom”.

He added: “This month’s figures show signs of recovery and the housebuilding sector remains resilient and continues to make a strong contribution to the construction industry.

“Scotland’s need for more homes, both private and social housing, continues to gather pace.  Cruden is responding to this and we will shortly be announcing significant investment in sales developments secured. This will allow us to keep abreast of this strong market demand and provide valuable employment and training opportunities in the future.”

Mark Robinson, chief executive of Scape Group, said the UK government should not become distracted by Brexit and must continue with the business of building.

Mr Robinson said: “Although today’s data points to disappointing level of output over the past three months, it is clear that in May things started to turn around. It is particularly promising to see that total new work increased by £13.7 billion over the past month alone, including significant contributions from infrastructure, as well as strong housebuilding.

“However, we still have a long way to go to reach output levels needed to keep the UK as a world-leader in the development of new infrastructure. Our latest research report finds that over the last two decades, infrastructure output across the UK has increased by just £70 per person. Despite record investment, the supply chain has not seen much increase in construction activity on the ground. More must be done to ensure SMEs benefit from the delivery of new infrastructure projects, particularly as we head towards Brexit.

“Even greater investment in infrastructure is also essential if the UK is to remain competitive. Our rapidly growing population deserves greater investment in the services they use every day to ensure that they run both efficiently and effectively. The government should not become distracted by Brexit and must continue with the business of building; committing to invest in our road and rail links will improve connectivity between cities and help them to flourish. Clarity and consistency on Brexit is essential to keep the construction industry and the wider economy moving in the right direction.”

Blog: Building a bright future – brick by brick

Nicole Carlin

Bricklaying is not a typical career aspiration for young girls growing up, and I was no different – I loved drama at school and thought perhaps I would try becoming an actress one day.  But by the time I finished school I had lost the acting bug and wasn’t too sure what I wanted to do.

Most of my friends were going into beauty or social care but none of that was for me. I knew I wanted to do something fairly active, and my mum, who has always shown me that I can do any job I wanted to, suggested I thought about working in construction.

I applied for a National Progression Award (NPA) Construction Course at Glasgow Kelvin College and got in.  It was a one year course where I did one day in the classroom and two days in the workshop doing hands-on assessments each week, and I got to try a range of trades.

I found that I enjoyed bricklaying the most and I stayed at college and completed a one year NPA Bricklaying course, where I really honed my skills. After that I applied to various companies and was lucky enough to get an interview and successfully secured a job with Cruden Building in August 2017.

Since then I have been working with a team where I am the only female, and it has been great fun.  I’m not treated any differently, and am made to feel part of the wider ‘Cruden family’. The company has really invested in developing their employees through the Cruden Academy which includes the full modern apprenticeship programme I am in, as well as lifelong learning, training and further education support.   About 300 people work here, including joiners, bricklayers, plumbers, painters and labourers and there are around 90 apprentices throughout the Cruden Group. For me, it is exciting to see how my bricklaying plays part of a much bigger role.

You don’t need to be macho to work in construction – I’ve always been a girl that likes wearing make-up and doing my hair, and that hadn’t changed. What I have gained is great confidence from learning a trade that I’ll always have, alongside a real sense of achievement and independence.

I also love building something lasting and practical – I could be doing beauty and paint someone’s face, but then they wash it all off afterwards. When I’m building a wall, I’m creating something that is much more permanent, and that gives me a real sense of pride. I especially love being able to work on building a house and seeing people then living in that house  – being able to build a home for a family is pretty special.

I’m now in my first year of a four year apprenticeship.  As well as getting a trade, I get paid while getting put through my training.  Beyond that, I see construction as a very good career option.

It’s a shame that more young people, particularly girls are still unaware of the huge number of opportunities available in the construction industry. At school, the careers advice I was given didn’t even consider this amazing sector,  even though there are so many different routes in and different jobs available – and there are no restrictions for men versus women.

Working in a trade doesn’t have to mean tools for the rest of your life unless you want it to. There is a real opportunity for career progression. For example, I could go into lecturing or maybe even become a site manager one day. But for now, I really enjoy my daily work bricklaying and am looking forward to progressing through my apprenticeship.

I’m also determined to bust the myths about working in the construction sector. The Cruden Academy supports a lot of initiatives to help young people get a better insight of the industry, and I’ve already had the chance to speak to secondary school children about what it’s like being an apprentice bricklayer.  If I can inspire one girl to wake up to the amazing opportunities that lie await in this fantastic sector, I’ll have done my job.

Nicole Carlin is an apprentice bricklayer with Cruden Building and is currently taking part in Cruden Academy where she is completing a four year Modern Apprenticeship.

New Dundee development a first for Cruden Homes

Construction is now underway at Craigie Fields, a new mixed tenure development in Dundee being built by Hart Builders, the East of Scotland building arm of the Cruden Group.

A number of properties within the new development will be for sale through Hart’s sister company, Cruden Homes and these will be the first new homes for sale in Dundee by the award winning house builder.

Craigie Fields is located on the city’s Pitairlie Road on the site of the former Mid Craigie Primary School which closed in 2009 and is both adjacent to Mid Craigie Park and close to the main Kingsway ring road (A972).

The new development will comprise 42 new homes in total of which 12 three-bedroom semi-detached homes will be for sale.

The remaining 30 properties are for rent through Angus Housing Association and will comprise a selection of two and three-bedroom homes and cottage flats. Within the mix is a six-bedroom wheelchair-friendly property, specially designed to allow householders with additional needs to continue living at home. The property layout has been created so that it can easily convert to two separate dwellings in the future if so required.

All the house styles at Craigie Fields have been designed exclusively for the location, with each home benefitting from cost saving renewable energy supplied by pv solar panels.

Hazel Davies, sales and marketing director of Cruden Homes, said: “We’re proud to be bringing new Cruden homes for sale to Dundee for the first time. Craigie Fields is a cracking development in a great location and offers excellent prospects for our first venture in the city.

“As such, it represents an important milestone as part of our ambitious growth strategy for the region.”

Alarm bells over construction output fall, says FMB

Brian Berry

The Beast from the East, rising costs and Brexit are to blame for the sharp drop in construction output, the Federation of Master Builders (FMB) has said in response to the April 2018 construction output figures published by the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

Commenting on the construction output figures for April 2018, Brian Berry, chief executive of the FMB, said: “The UK construction sector declined by 3.4 per cent in the three months from February to April compared with the previous three months. This is the biggest fall since the latter stages of the recession in August 2012. The Beast from the East has certainly played its part as it forced many construction sites to close in March. Indeed, builders were reporting that it was too cold to lay bricks.”

Berry continued: “Alongside the cold snap, the drop in construction output can also be attributed to rising costs for construction firms large and small. While wages are continuing to rise because of the acute skills crisis in our sector, firms are also feeling the pinch thanks to increased material prices. The depreciation of sterling following the EU referendum has meant bricks and insulation in particular have become more expensive. We expect material prices to continue to squeeze the construction industry with recent research by the Federation of Master Builders showing that 84 per cent of builders believe that they will continue to rise in the next six months.”

Berry concluded: “In the medium to longer term, with nine months until Brexit-Day, the future is uncertain for the UK construction sector. The Government is still to confirm what the post-Brexit immigration system will look like. The construction sector is largely reliant on accessing EU workers with more than 8 per cent of construction workers coming from the EU. It is therefore imperative that the sector knows how, and to what extent, it can recruit these workers post-Brexit.”

“The decline in output reflects the recent gloomy news for the construction sector”, said: Allan Callaghan, managing director of Cruden Building. “However, given the challenges being experienced right across the industry, I suspect these figures will fall again if we don’t get on the front foot in fixing some fundamental issues – most recently the updated Scottish Planning Bill. The Stage One report of this crucial legislation shows that the Bill contains no proposals to reform the stumbling blocks of the system, nor make any recommendations, other than asking Ministers to consider the issues further.

“The country is in the grip of a housing shortage and the industry and Government needs to act now to ensure that the Planning Bill delivers all that we need it to and have planning system is collaborative, fully-resourced and able to deliver decisions quickly if we want construction output to flourish in the future.”

Hart Builders appoints new director to Executive Board

Gill Henry is also project director of the Social Bite Village

Cruden Group company Hart Builders has announced the appointment of Gill Henry, business development director, to its Executive Board.

As the construction industry face challenging times, Hart Builders said it has made increasing the number of women in the construction industry a priority.

Colin MacDonald, managing director of Hart Builders, said: “Over the last four years, Gill’s knowledge  and experience in the delivery of new build affordable housing has added significant value to our business.

“Her appointment to the Board of Hart Builders acknowledges her hard work and also her role in several housing related charitable projects, which she has led on behalf of the Cruden Group. This includes the recently launched Social Bite Village in Edinburgh. Gill is also extremely committed to encouraging women into the construction industry, so it is particularly fitting that she is the first female director to achieve this position.”

Gill Henry added: “Having enjoyed working closely with Hart Builders for many years as a client, joining the business four years ago as Head of Business Development was a natural move for me.

“Hart Builders ethos and genuine commitment to partnering, it’s staff team and the wider Cruden Group support – offer the chance to work with clients in a unique and pro-active way.

“The need for affordable housing of all tenures has never been higher or further up the political agenda. A home is a basic human need but affordability, technological innovation, demographic shifts and regulatory requirements are changing the housing development and construction landscape on an almost daily basis. I am really delighted to be appointed to the Hart Board at such an exciting time and look forward to driving the business forward and responding to the challenges the industry faces.”

Construction output suffers biggest quarterly decrease in six years

Construction output in the UK has continued its recent decline falling by 2.7% in March 2018 on a three-month on three-month basis.

Figures published today by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) suggest that the decrease, the biggest fall seen in this series since August 2012, was driven by falls in both repair and maintenance, and new work, which fell 2.8% and 2.6% respectively.

Following several months of consistently strong growth, private housing also experienced a slowdown in March 2018, contracting in the three-month on three-month series by 1.6%.

Construction output also fell in the month-on-month series, contracting by 2.3% in March 2018.

Anecdotal evidence suggests that the adverse weather conditions during February and March could have potentially contributed to the decline in construction output, although it is difficult to quantify the exact impact on the industry, the ONS said.

The estimate for construction growth in Quarter 1 (Jan to Mar) 2018 has been revised up 0.6 percentage points to negative 2.7%, from negative 3.3% in the preliminary estimate of gross domestic product (GDP), which has no impact on quarterly GDP growth to one decimal place.

Responding to the figures, Mark Robinson, Scape Group chief executive, said the industry has a lot of catching up to do if it is to meet targets for this year, whatever the weather.

He said: “Today’s ONS construction data shows that the industry continued to struggle in March, as the unseasonal weather impacted the speed of project delivery and new work commencing. However, we can expect the data to pick up following the CIPS/Markit announcement last week, which shows that activity rebounded in April.

“Over the past decade the UK has benefited from the government’s strong and unwavering commitment to infrastructure investment across the country, and this momentum must continue as we swim in to more austere waters, and edge closer to our exit from the EU. Taking bold decisions now will benefit local communities in the years ahead.

“It is very positive to see that private residential building increased by £6 million on the year – but this growth is still not anywhere near the levels needed to meet housebuilding targets. It is clear that the government needs to think more creatively about housing delivery. A combined effort between the public and private sectors is vital and government needs to equip local authorities with the funding powers to make a real difference in meeting housing need.”

Allan Callaghan

Allan Callaghan, managing director of Cruden Building, added: “While disappointing, these figures come at a period where the housebuilding sector is traditionally at its most productive, with the longer, drier days supporting increased work on the ground.  Furthermore, we’re seeing strong demand for modern and affordable housing across the country and I would expect this trend to continue.

“The ongoing skills shortage remains a crucial challenge for this sector. Without skilled labour we cannot increase output to the levels needed to tackle issues such as the housing gap.

“At Cruden we are proactively addressing this and are currently recruiting this year’s intake of around 15 apprentices across a variety of trades and skills through our Cruden Academy.  These direct apprentices will become part of our 90 strong team of apprentices that we train every year across the group.”

Social Bite Village welcomes its final two ‘Nest Houses’

The Final house is lowered into place at the Social Bite Village, Edinburgh behind Alister Steele (Chairman) , Gill Henry (Cruden Group), Josh Littlejohn (Social Bite)
(Image by Stewart Attwood)

As the countdown begins to the opening of the Social Bite Village in Granton, Edinburgh the final two nest houses have been delivered to the site.

It marks a key milestone for the project team who have worked tirelessly to deliver the vision of Social Bite founder Josh Littlejohn in his mission to eradicate homelessness in Scotland.

The Social Bite Village is delivering  an innovative housing model, within a supported community environment. It aims to break the cycle of homelessness and provides residents with pathways into employment and permanent housing. The design of the nest houses was very carefully considered to provide compact comfortable homes which will be shared by two residents.

Individual bedrooms provide privacy whilst the shared living area offers a practical space to relax and enjoy the company of their buddy. At the centre of the village is the community hub, where residents, staff and volunteers will be encouraged to prepare meals communally, eat together, socialise, develop social and practical skills and benefit from a warm, bright, welcoming environment.

Project director Gill Henry from Cruden Group explained how this challenging project has been pulled together.

She said: “The Cruden Group is delighted to have led the development of the Village on behalf of Social Bite Communities.  It is really exciting today to see the final two nesthouses being dropped into position.  With only the landscaping to finish, the project has been delivered in an incredibly short space of time from our initial meeting in February 2017 -and it will be with a great sense of achievement that we hand the village over shortly.  We look forward to seeing how the community develops and encourages many who have experienced homelessness to find confidence and security while they live in this great place. It could not have been achieved without the pro-bono contributions, sheer dedication and financial support of so many.”

Josh Littlejohn MBE, co-founder of Social Bite, said: “I can’t thank Gill and Cruden Group enough for their support and involvement in this project. The Social Bite Village has been a hugely ambitious undertaking, and Gill has ensured that the project has run without a hitch in such a tight time frame.”

Alister Steele, chairman of Social Bite Communities, said: “Today sees the last piece of the village jigsaw slotting into place. The project is a remarkable testimony to the generosity of so many people and business who have given time, money and materials to bring Josh’s vision to a reality. The cornerstone of this achievement has undoubtedly been Gill who has co-ordinated and cajoled the project team to get us to this point.”

Construction output continues to slip

Construction output in the UK has continued its recent decline with February Office for National Statistics figures showing that the sector suffered a 1.6 per cent month-on-month fall, and compared with February 2017, construction output fell 3.0 per cent; the biggest month-on-year fall since March 2013.

The three-month on three-month decrease in construction output was driven predominantly by the continued decline in repair and maintenance work, which fell by 2.6 per cent in February.

The construction output decrease in the month-on-month series, contracting by 1.6 per cent in February, stemmed from a 9.4 per cent decrease in infrastructure new work.

The ONS also said it had received some anecdotal information from a small number of its survey respondents regarding the effect of the snow on their businesses in the final week of February 2018.

It said the adverse weather conditions across Great Britain could have potentially contributed to the decline in construction output, although it is difficult to quantify the exact impact on the industry.

Allan Callaghan, managing director of Cruden Building, said: “While I’m glad to report that Cruden is bucking market trends and performing strongly, it’s true to say that right now is a tough time forconstruction.

“With less than a year to go until Brexit, the twin pressures of rising material costs and a decreasing workforce are only being exacerbated. Although Cruden and many others in the Scottish construction industry have been working to plug the current skills gaps for some time, the spectre of Brexit is casting a shadow of uncertainty over what it will mean for materials costs and the ability to retain skilled labour.

“We need decisive action from Government to secure trade and labour agreements that will support the construction industry in delivering on Scotland’s housebuilding and wider infrastructure targets.”

Gordon Reidregional business development manager, Kier Construction Scotland, said: “These figures reflect ongoing challenges for the industry and output has been down for a long while. However, in contrast, Kier has recently announced a solid set of half-year financial results where we have grown our business, expanded our order book and secured a robust pipeline of activity.

“Heritage is a particular growth sector for Kier Construction Scotland. We have just been appointed as the contractor to support Glasgow Life in their refurbishment of The Burrell Collection.  Returning iconic buildings to their former glory is hugely rewarding and provides plenty of opportunities to attract a diverse range of new talent to the industry. We will continue to focus on showcasing the breadth of career opportunities that the construction industry has to offer, and highlight the significant boost that our sector delivers to the Scottish economy.”

Blog: Changing the face of a career in construction

Allan Callaghan

As the construction sector becomes more diverse and lucrative, there is still more work needed to ensure it is viewed as a genuine career option for those seeking an aspirational career, says Allan Callaghan.

As industries continue to change and evolve, construction is going through its own transformation – shifting from a male-dominated, traditional profession to a much more innovative, diverse and collaborative industry with wider career horizons than ever before.

This bodes well, as much for the Scottish economy as the construction industry itself, because without change and diversity, construction will be at risk of becoming as solid and unmoving as the buildings we create.

The positive ripple effect on the rest of the country – in addition to the £7.1 billion Gross Value Added (GVA) contribution construction makes to the economy, will affect countless other businesses, from small to large, which serve the sector.

However it’s not all good news. There are increasing challenges in recruiting skilled employees and the public face of construction is still suffering from an image problem. The industry is incredibly diverse and significantly more professional and technical than is referred to anecdotally. Construction is not a career for those struggling academically or mostly consisting of the hard hat brigade. It needs to be viewed as a genuine career option for those with potential trade skills and an aspirational career in a rewarding and thriving sector. It also offers genuine equal opportunities for all backgrounds and abilities at all levels.

Most parents would be proud to say their child is studying accountancy or dentistry but in reality, young people with apprenticeships are among the most employable in the country, not to mention becoming equipped with valuable practical skills and a good salary.

Indeed, the Federation of Master Builders has recently reported that construction apprentices actually earn more per year than many of their university graduate counterparts, confirming construction as a highly rewarding career option.

Apprenticeships are not to be underestimated. They really do provide the lifeblood to this industry. At Cruden, our skills development through the Cruden Academy has allowed us to build up a sustainable pool of talent. We have a continuous programme of investing in our employees which includes our full modern apprenticeship programme, lifelong learning, training and distance support as well as further education support. This is reflected in the importance we attach to this through our Investors in People & Investors in Young People Accreditations and our dedicated Trades management who commit to mentoring Apprentices.

During my time at Cruden, I’ve seen numerous employees stay with us and climb up the career ladder very successfully. We directly recruit around fifteen new apprentices across a variety of trades and skills each year with additional placements supported through our supply chain as well as offering opportunities with consultants, and these direct apprentices will become part of the 90 strong team of apprentices that we train every year across the Group.

Today’s apprenticeships and those embarking in additional learning and training come from all genders and backgrounds and our business is stronger for it. It has helped us to achieve and support healthy order books, continued growth and develop more effective and innovative ways of working. In Cruden our view is that we should channel challenges as drivers for innovation from adversity.

I encourage every business within the construction sector to consider implementing a genuine apprenticeship programme and to reap the rewards this can bring to their company. Equally, there has never been a better time for the Government and the industry to come together with a unified voice to begin sensibly and apolitically addressing this outdated perception of working in this industry and amplify the message that the face of construction has changed and it’s time for people to adjust their views accordingly.

As a company leader, I’m very proud to see the effects of these opportunities on individuals as we continue to develop the leaders of tomorrow. By the time these young men and women are my age, I’m sure the construction landscape will be much transformed, and hopefully a highly sought-after career option for more women and young people. With the right talent, the world of construction could shine even brighter as the jewel in the crown of the Scottish economy. We certainly have the right foundations to build upon.

  • Allan Callaghan is managing director of Cruden Building & Renewals Limited