Can you tell us about McCarrick Construction and your role as a board member of Northern Counties Builders Federation?
As a regional main contractor, McCarrick Construction has been creating spaces to live, work and learn across the North-East for seventy years. We employ our team directly, which is sadly rare in the construction industry these days, but it works extremely well for us. Some of our veteran tradesmen started here when my grandad was still running the company and that level of experience and loyalty is invaluable. We also run an award-winning apprenticeship programme and it’s very rewarding to see our experienced team members with 30, 40 and even 50 years of service passing on their skills to our apprentices and trainees as they work together to deliver complex and challenging projects.
As a board member of NCBF I have a platform from which to support other SMEs across the North-East construction industry. We have to constantly push to ensure regional project opportunities are available to our capable local contractors and are not just hoovered up by the big names in construction who have more marketing budget. Having worked for a tier 1 multi-national for the first 14 years of my career, hopefully, I bring a bit of insight from the other side of the table.
What are the biggest challenges and opportunities facing the construction sector?
One of the biggest challenges the industry is facing is without doubt the skills shortage. As part of my role with NCBF I sit on the board of CAN (Construction Alliance North East) and was recently invited to a Parliamentary select committee to discuss the skills shortage and how to attract more young people to higher education and apprenticeships. The construction industry still needs to work on its reputation and encourage school and college students to look into the diverse job roles available in the sector – it’s sometimes seen as a last resort, which is incredibly frustrating. We also find that the younger generations aren’t all as committed as we’d like, which is possibly more of a sociological problem. Given all this, it’s more important than ever to nurture the talent we find and provide a stimulating and rewarding work environment for them.
McCarrick Construction have historically had great success in employing apprentices – most of our senior team starting with us as apprentices and developing their careers according to their ambitions, to wide ranging management roles. We take on apprentices every year but a lot of other companies are either unwilling or unable to make that commitment. Again, this is an imbalance in part down to larger companies not directly employing staff anymore; you’re not going to be able to train apprentices if you don’t employ any skilled labour directly yourself, and the smaller outfits don’t always have the capacity – at that level it can literally come down to whether there’s space in the van as 16-year-old school leavers won’t have their own transport. So medium-sized companies like ourselves are doing the heavy lifting in terms of training up the next generation and we could do with more support as this is really important work.