As the curtain comes down on the last CIH Housing conference before the UK leaves the EU, the sector is now truly assimilating the impact of Brexit, whilst also starting to bring into focus the cumulative impact of the housing crisis, skills crisis and the Grenfell Tower disaster.
As the Manchester Central conference venue basked in record-breaking temperatures, debate around some of the key sectoral issues matched the heat of the sunshine, demonstrating the keen desire of the sector to address housing shortages with a qualified and professional workforce providing safe and high-quality housing.
Brexit impact analysis
Brexit has featured in many of the presentations and speeches. The Reallies Partnership, of which Efficiency North are founding members, launched in-depth research into the impact of Brexit on social housing supply chains. This has been carried out by Professor Dr Jonathan Linton of the University of Sheffield. Delegates attending the launch listened to analysis of how the UK’s departure from the EU will impact upon established supply chains due to finance issues, materials availability, logistics, labour shortages, information / data exchange, infrastructure suitability and technology capability.
In contrast to the challenges of Brexit, the report also highlighted the opportunities that exist for the sector and how Brexit might purge some of the much-needed changes and, indeed, advance progress in adopting new ways of working. Effective procurement / supply chain management, high quality training / apprenticeships and innovative ways to improve, maintain and build new homes will all be essential to maintaining the sector’s progress in meeting the housing and skills crisis through Brexit. Our report was succinctly captured by Jonathan Seddon, Chief Executive of the Seddon Group who said, “Brexit is probably a kick up the arse – and that is what we need.”
This year’s conference saw the first off-site village which featured the BuildSmart show home, developed by our Reallies partners CHIC in collaboration with Hull based Premier Modular. Feedback from visitors to the show home was excellent with many commenting upon the space and high-quality finish of the home which was assembled in less than a day. Clearly, if the sector is to meet the challenge of the housing crisis, it is essential that registered providers embrace new ways of developing and constructing homes. Off-site construction is one of the ways to do this.
The term “disruptive” featured in many presentations. It was used in a variety of ways to express that we must do things in a constructive and productive way to change the current status quo. There appears to be a real recognition from all parts of the sector that we really must embrace new ways of doing things and challenge more of the established principles around the delivery of new homes. It’s very encouraging however much more can be done and as Nick Walkley, Chief Executive of Homes England commented “if the government agency is on a platform talking about being disruptive, Houston, we have a problem.” I could not agree more. Being disruptive has been adopted by those wishing to challenge established ways of working. It seems to be the cool thing to do. Interestingly I received many school reports which frequently contained this term, but I never seemed to receive similar support.
High quality training and education routes
Due to the growing demands upon resources which will be exacerbated by the push to build more homes, and Brexit, it was really encouraging to see key industry influencers recognising in their presentations and speeches that much more needs to be done by the sector to improve the delivery and provision of high quality academic and vocational training and education routes into the sector.
The sector is going through a bit of a transformation in generational terms. More young people are entering the sector, possibly driven by their own personal experiences of not being able to rent or purchase a place that they can call home. It is absolutely vital that all sectoral leaders take personal responsibility to do all that they can to improve the number and quality of people entering the sector with well thought through and professional career routes that will deliver the sector’s future leaders and managers.
EN:Able Futures Academy
Efficiency North has established the EN:Able Futures academy to assist this in the Yorkshire and Humber region through the provision of an innovative shared higher level apprenticeships model based upon block release learning in partnership with Leeds College of Building.
This approach provides the optimum balance between on / off the job learning and is complemented by industry led learning via the supply chain. Through the model top talent is spotted early and further mentoring and support is provided to bring out the best in young people and provide future leaders. Hopefully, some of these young people will challenge the status quo further and address the acute need for change in the sector by being disruptive. Let’s hope it’s not the not the same kind of disruptive that was on my school report from Branksome Comprehensive School in 1988.