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Delivering radical transformation and raising standards using the Construction Playbook

Date: 06/07/2021

Categories: Thought Leadership


Last week, we hosted the second webinar in our series in partnership with Built Environment Networking on the Construction Playbook; Delivering Radical Transformation and Raising Standards Using the Construction Playbook.

Our executive chairman, Gerard Toplass, was joined in the discussion by Dr Nicola Thompson, group compliance and performance director at multi-disciplinary consultancy Pick Everard, and Rob Byrnes, head of frameworks at Vinci Construction UK.

The final addition to the panel was our own non-executive chairman Lord Bob Kerslake, who is also the chair of Peabody Trust, chair of Barking and Dagenham regeneration company Be First, chair of the Stockport Mayoral Development Corporation and chair of the UK2070 Commission.

Throughout the session, the panel discussed a number of key topics, including the changes already taking place since the publication of the Playbook and key questions around costs versus value, levelling up, and innovation and training.


Costs versus value – a balanced approach

It was noted that there is still a lot of education to be done with clients across the industry on the importance of examining whole life cost rather than just capital cost for a scheme, and that it is a very interesting time to be examining this in a post-pandemic landscape in which most clients are very occupied by cost and budget requirements.

Like us at Pagabo, both Pick Everard and Vinci are working hard with their clients on this education element, assisting clients with their understanding and requirement assessment to help them ensure tenders contain a balanced mix of cost and value.

All speakers agreed that the steps we have seen from the government in recent months and years – while slower than we may all perhaps like to see – are moving in the right direction, with the recent changes to social value assessment for central government being a prime example of this.

Lord Kerslake brought a unique perspective on the social value discussion, having been working within the government at a time when there was a huge focus on cost following the financial crash. This period of time saw the additional elements that we now focus on in social value – such as training and skills – taken out of the equation in procurement.

The 2012 Social Value Act and the more recent changes to social value assessment for central government are reversing those changes and taking them further than ever before, and the panellists all agreed that these are all steps in the right direction. We are however facing a unique set of challenges, building social value back into the built environment with a greater focus on the local and personal impact at a time when overall cost will be incredibly important to clients post-pandemic.

All speakers agreed that a blended approach to social value measurement is needed, particularly as there are areas of the industry that are only just beginning to grasp social value. Some clients are still looking for monetary figures, while others are looking beyond that to the ‘real life’ impact – so it will be important to examine how both sides of this can be evaluated, demystifying some of the language around social value practices, and to educate clients on the importance of both.


Levelling up and transformational change will attract the workforce of tomorrow

As explained by Lord Kerslake, the core issue is about rebalancing the UK economy, not pitting the north and the south against each other. Post-pandemic this is more important than ever, and elements of the Playbook will play into this critical agenda.

Levelling up will take huge commitment and many in the industry will be very interested to see what is covered in the government’s levelling up whitepaper later this year.

Rob, who also holds a position in Build UK’s working group on the Construction Playbook, noted the important role transparent pipelines will play in the all-important investment required to level up.

The Playbook does give signposts on commercial pipelines, which point us in the right direction and set us up to commit to many of the other principles outlined. Visibility of the pipeline of work allows for confident investment in the various things such as skills and digital tools to improve productivity and processes, and to drive innovation within the market – all things that will work towards a brighter future for the whole industry.

This longer-term vision of work and pipelines will drive that investment in innovation and skills forward, which is something we really need to do to tackle the current skills and labour shortage we are facing.

40,000 young people enter into further education courses related to our industry, yet only 25 per cent of them go into industry jobs per year. There is a clear problem with intake into the sector that we must tackle. Every walk of our life is impacted by built environment professionals, so we have to ensure our sector is adapting to attract the best workforce possible to continue creating the excellent buildings, facilities and environments we all use and enjoy every day.

The people entering into the industry now will be the ones running it in the future, meaning we need to adapt the way we train our workforce and make sure it meets their expectations. As noted by Gerard we also need to work on retaining people even if they want to move into different types of jobs, helping them to move around within the industry rather than exiting it.

There is a challenge to be faced in balancing more traditional courses like architecture with new skills and ways of learning without cutting any corners.

Nicola stressed the importance of this, noting that none of her current team have an engineering background. As an industry, we focus on talking about roles like engineers when we are talking about what the sector has to offer career-wise – but we possess so much more scope than that and if we are to close the skills gap, we have to showcase that range and potential.

Ultimately, the Playbook will be driving us to create a more robust industry that is data-driven, fosters real innovation and makes better use of modern methods of construction.

The industry has so far been painfully slow to innovate, with Lord Kerslake noting that he was involved in a working group on MMC years ago, yet the industry is still only on the cusp of beginning to use these methods.

An increased move towards these new methods and processes lends itself to a different attitude towards training – focusing on a portfolio of skills that are shorter than traditional routes, but ultimately leave an individual with a wider range of skills to use across the industry. Plus, as innovation takes off, we don’t know what other new job roles and skills we will need, so this requires an ongoing adjustment approach – the industry must provide a life of careers, not just a career for life.

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