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Contracting | Our survey says

A survey of the supply chain has been instrumental in identifying the behaviours that it will need to deliver unprecedented levels of work in the sector. Here is a progress report on the Infrastructure 21 programme.

Infrastructure 21

When the Civil Engineering Contractor’s Association’s (Ceca) chief executive Alasdair Reisner announced the launch of the Infrastructure 21 programme in NCE in January this year, he celebrated the prospects for the infrastructure sector while warning against complacency in the supply chain.

“It is vital that the focus on efficiency that has strengthened during the downturn is maintained,” he said. “We must work even harder to secure better value for our customers.”

Reisner explained how the Infrastructure 21 programme - a joint initiative between Ceca, NCE, and training body CITB - would help to achieve this ambition.

“By speaking to customers, main contractors and supply chain organisations we hope to define what good looks like,” he said. “But more importantly, we hope that this will form the basis of a programme of low and no-cost training to ensure that any company who wants to play a part in this future has the tools at its disposal to do so.”  

Infrastructure 21

Define ‘good’: Roger Bullivant director John Patch speaking at the Infrastructure 21 Awards in June

Since that time, Infrastructure 21 has conducted a survey of over 500 companies from the UK infrastructure sector to identify the key competencies that will be necessary to deliver future workloads. And the results make for interesting reading.

Of 30 potential priorities, respondents honed in on activities that looked after the industry’s workforce with safety in construction, safety leadership and safety behaviour and culture occupying the top slots. More than 65% of respondents saw each as a top priority for the sector.

Leadership and management scored 65% while collaborative working came in fifth at 63%. Other priorities for industry included training, technical competence, innovation, lean construction and risk management.

“By speaking to customers, main contractors and supply chain organisations we hope to define what good looks like”

Alasdair Reisner, Ceca

Interesting differences began to emerge when respondents were split into customers, tier 1 contractors and the supply chain. Perhaps the most interesting variation was the fact that supply chain members generally did not see environmental sustainability as a leading priority - just 42% saw it as such. This was not matched by customers who valued it far higher - 58% said it was a high priority.

Similarly, customers and supply chain firms varied in their attitudes to diversity and equality. Supply chain firms marked diversity as their fifth lowest priority and yet it placed nine places higher with customers. In fact, 84% of the clients polled said it was a high or medium priority.

Priority disagreement

Although there was broad agreement nationally on most points, there were also some interesting regional variations in certain priorities. For instance, Scottish respondents tended to prioritise technical competence, while planning found favour with those in the Midlands.

Building Information Modelling scored fairly poorly as a priority across the UK and yet this was contradicted by respondents from the East of England who put it as their ninth highest priority. Lastly, companies in the South West sought greater support on customer engagement than their colleagues around the rest of the country.

Following the survey the Infrastructure 21 board has acted on its findings by launching a series of training programmes for the supply chain with the Construction Industry Training Board (CITB).

In addition, it has sought to celebrate excellence in the supply chain. In June, five supply chain firms were recognised by their clients at a special awards event jointly organised by the programme founders NCE, Ceca and CITB.

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