Sir Howard Bernstein discusses the key streams of the Northern Powerhouse
Sir Howard Bernstein discusses the key streams of the Northern Powerhouse

Bernstein: Manchester alone will not make Northern Powerhouse

Kirsty Butcher

Wednesday saw several hundred construction professionals gather for the second annual Greater Manchester Construction Summit at The Point, Emirates Old Trafford cricket ground. [GALLERY]

The key themes reiterated throughout the day were collaboration, connectivity and devolution, with the Northern Powerhouse discussed at length. The event was organised by the Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce.

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In his keynote speech, Sir Howard Bernstein, chief executive of Manchester City Council, highlighted transport, science, innovation and devolution as key streams and drivers of the Northern Powerhouse.

Bernstein underlined the key role that both the new GM Mayor and Manchester have to play in the Northern Powerhouse, but warned that isolation could pose a severe problem to the wider impact of the Government’s initiative: “Manchester is at the heart of the Northern Powerhouse but it is not the Northern Powerhouse.”

Joe Anderson, Mayor of Liverpool, expressed the necessity for strong connectivity between Northern cities in order to boost the power of devolution and the collective strength of the Northern construction industry.

In his keynote speech, Peter Hansford, Government chief construction advisor, discussed the Construction 2025 vision of a modern, efficient and lean sector. This joint industry and government strategy aims to see construction costs lowered by a third, 50% faster delivery of projects, emissions halved and exports doubled by 2025.

Hansford urged major changes to take place within the industry. He said: “We cannot reach this vision with small incremental improvements. The industry needs to lead its own transformation, not rely on the Government to do it.”

A panel discussion chaired by Phil Cusack, director of Capita and member of the Chamber board, covered the industry’s future, BIM, off-site construction and greater data usage. Panellists including Tom Bloxham of Urban Splash and Eric Dean of Ty Hauss felt the lack of understanding, collaboration and investment in technology were a major barrier to growth.

The skills shortage was highlighted as one of the biggest challenges to the sector throughout the day, linked with the sector’s image problem and a lack of alignment between industry and education.

The CITB announced the launch of a new career and skills matching service in September, in collaboration with the National Careers Service, the Department for Work & Pensions, and a range of employers, federations and associations. With 410,000 people in construction eligible for retirement in the next five years, and 224,000 needed to enter the industry in order to meet currently planned construction programmes, Sarah Fenton, director of the CITB, expressed the necessity to compete for talent with other sectors, and education and collaboration as a means to do so: “collaboration is not a nicety, it is a necessity.”

All delegates were given the latest update of the Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce’s Pipeline Analysis, an examination and forecast of the labour, outputs, issues and opportunities in the construction industry in the near future. Key findings of the report include:

  • The output between 2015-2018 is predicted to be £29.9bn
  • £114.4bn of construction projects are in the planning system, with £69.8bn expected to have a high degree of certainty of delivery
  • Training needs for the current period (2015-2018) are 45% higher than the previous period (2011-2014)

Votes were put to the delegates regarding different aspects touched upon in the Summit, the results of which include the following:

  • 47% of attendees considered the role of the Mayor of Greater Manchester to be very important for construction
  • 44% believed that apprenticeships are not fit for purpose in the current climate of change
  • 51% believed migrant labour could plug the skills gap
  • 72% agreed that there is an untapped opportunity to attract mid-career entrants

The results of the votes will inform the Chamber’s campaigning agenda and will be passed on to key decision-makers in the industry.

The event was sponsored by Coolair Equipment, Trowers & Hamlins, Brown & Bancroft Interiors and CITB.

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Your Comments

Manchester needs Liverpool to power the north. It should concentrate on boosting connections to Liverpool as its top priority; Leeds too, but only after Liverpool. Liverpool and Manchester helped create the modern world together. They are the only two cities close enough to genuinely rival London.

By Paul Blackburn

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