Call for new procurement methods to drive offsite construction

5th June, 2019

Future procurement methods in Scotland should be used to request offsite construction for larger sites in order to create a pipeline of work that allows companies to invest in skills and manufacturing for offsite delivery.

That's according to a new report by the Independent Short Life Working Group (SLWG), made up of housebuilders, industry organisations, college, university, public sector, training and skills organisations.

The group, chaired by professor Sean Smith of Edinburgh Napier University, was formed to assess and provide recommendations to the Scottish government for future new housing and construction skills.

It has examined needs in the short term (three years), medium term (four to nine years) and long term (10+ years) and its report, New Housing and Future Construction Skills - Adapting and Modernising for Growth has made 40 recommendations.

Among the recommendations was a call to introduce procurement pathways and new housing sector frameworks to encourage offsite and modern methods of construction (MMC) approaches for larger sites to create a "pipeline platform" for industry to invest further in offsite skills and manufacturing in Scotland.

But the report warned that such frameworks should not infringe SME entry into the sector and should encourage collaboration between different company sizes.

It also recommended growing the supply of future offsite skills through initiatives such as an offsite training academy, and support in the development of multi-skills for offsite.

Skills shortages

The report identified specific skills shortages in the new build sector, mainly in relation to bricklaying, joinery, site managers and other trades. It also found that there were regional 'hot spots' where there was an under-supply of skills such as the Highlands and south east Scotland, where there are "specific acute shortages".

The report recommended a focus on delivery to increase the supply of bricklayers, joiners, painters and decorators in those areas and also called for additional support and investment to assist the training and supply of site managers, as well as the upskilling of existing site managers.

The report said: "Over the next decade the industry is entering a period of transition as new construction technologies, processes, energy devices and smart systems enter into use and mainstream. It is important for the sector to look ahead and plan with all key stakeholders, not only for the industry but also for the economy, environmental and societal benefits which will result from new housing.

"A key change which would help new housebuilding and construction as a whole is the appointment of either a separate ministerial portfolio for construction, or the appointment of a senior civil servant. This role should have oversight and interlinks across many government departments to align and support the exciting growth opportunities for new housebuilding and construction in the coming decade."

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