Peter Reekie: Help us transform Scotland’s construction sector

Peter Reekie: Help us transform Scotland's construction sector

Peter Reekie

Peter Reekie, CEO of the Scottish Futures Trust and chair of the executive group of the Scottish Construction Leadership Forum (CLF), calls on the construction sector to embrace transformation.

The construction industry is a vital, and sometimes overlooked part of Scotland’s economy.

It contributes six per cent to Scottish GDP and employs six per cent of our workforce, which puts its economic contribution just behind financial and insurance services, but ahead of IT and communications and is three times greater than those of agriculture, forestry and food.

A new industry-wide data dashboard created by the Scottish Construction Leadership Forum (CLF) presents research evidence that if those employed as designers, advisors and manufacturers of construction products are included in those employment figures, the workforce figure rises to more than 12 per cent – nearly twice that of the oil and gas sector.

And construction is vital, not just because of its scale and spread across the country, but also because of its central role in delivering our collective vision to reach net-zero emissions and adapting our built environment to protect us from the effects of climate change.

So, construction has scale and importance, but it also has challenges, with an historic inability to improve productivity, a reputation for confrontational commercial practices and some high-profile quality failings.

Against that backdrop, in 2019 the CLF was formed as a collaborative grouping of industry leaders and Scottish Government, as well as a number of other public bodies, to deliver improved outcomes for the industry and its workforce, and for its customers and wider society.

During the pandemic, Ivan MKee, the Minister for Business, Trade, Tourism and Enterprise, took on chairmanship of the group as it worked with industry to get the sector safely back to work. It developed a recovery plan for the sector which has seen collaborative groups of industry and public sector stakeholders deliver dozens of actions to support the industry and its workforce through the pandemic.

But now, with the industry above its pre-pandemic output, it has shifted from recovery into a new era of transformation, creating the industry we need for the future with net zero and digitalisation at the heart of things.

As a first step, the CLF has approved a draft Construction Accord – a first-of-a-kind sector-wide agreement between the public sector and the construction industry of what outcomes they want to see: for businesses and the economy, for the current and future workforce, for customers and users of its products and for wider communities and the environment.

To deliver on those outcomes it has also set out proposals for nine collaborative working groups to develop an industry Transformation Plan covering areas as diverse as procurement practices, fair work and skills for the sector, net zero, digital transformation and reinforcing a quality culture.

The CLF believes that transformation must impact everyone in the industry and help attract new people.

We need those working and closely associated to the construction sector to help shape the Construction Accord and to join our working groups.

The draft version of the Accord is available on the Construction Leadership Forum website and we’re keen to get feedback and to build diverse, talented working groups to lead that transformation of the industry.

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