Construction in Northern Ireland is chock-a-block with experienced and extremely knowledgeable people who have devoted their lives to the industry. The problem lies at the other end of the age spectrum.
Family-run construction firms are still the norm here, and one of the issues keeping members awake at night is the question of succession. When grey hair, or no hair is all the rage, you know you’ve reason for concern.
“There’s a reason we run courses on succession planning at CEF. There are still so many family-run businesses in construction”, said Assistant Director, Mark Spence, “A business is only as good as its leadership, and it’s all about skills and future-proofing. Drawing younger people to the industry, and just as importantly, retaining them, is essential. Everything in construction has got a lot slicker, a lot leaner, and it’s not going to be grey heads doing a lot of that, it’s smart kids who know their way around software.”
CEF is keen to take the lead when it comes to selling the construction industry to the future generations, and embracing all things environmental will be an integral part of that strategy. “The green agenda is increasingly prevalent, it’s now demanded by many clients. They’re wanting to work with companies who fit with their values. It’s a role CEF wants to take a lead in, assisting our members to get there and helping them to go green.”
Mark Spence is only a matter of weeks into his new role, but has he had the opportunity to set goals for his tenure at CEF. “What I most want to achieve out of this role is to see CEF supporting our members to secure a sustainable future for their businesses. That means working very closely with the government, knowing what their plans are, and being realistic about those plans.
“We just need to see some direction of travel, a little bit of optimism goes a long way. We’d rather see a secure smaller budget than figures that change year in, year out. That’s why we’re delighted to hear that multi-year budgets are coming again. We’ve been living from hand to mouth and that’s not sustainable. Construction doesn’t work in one-year budgets.
“CEF is ultimately a members’ organisation. All our committees decide what our policies and priorities are. Our members give of their own time and it’s not an ivory tower approach. We listen and will continue to do so.”