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Archive for January 28th, 2020

What is the value of apprentices in construction?

January 28th, 2020 Comments off

It’s been a concern for a while that the construction industry doesn’t have enough skilled workers. City & Guilds found that 87% of employers were already finding it difficult to recruit the necessary number of skilled workers last year and, Construction News reported that official figures show  12.6% of UK construction workers come from overseas, with 5.7% originating from the EU. Staggeringly, this rises to six in 10 in London, with 30% of British-born construction workers currently over 50 years old. This means that businesses are likely to feel the pinch of those departing in the coming years through retirement when Brexit comes into play.

However, it’s believed by some experts that apprenticeships are crucial. They could be more important than ever before following Brexit and an influx of publicity which circulated around National Apprenticeship Week in March seems to have encouraged employers to think about the future of their workforces — could it be that apprentices will fill the employee shortage?

Niftylift, retailers of aerial work platforms, takes a closer look…

The top five sectors for apprenticeship starts are Engineering, Manufacturing, Construction, Planning and the Built Environment. In the academic year of 2016/2017, the Engineering and Manufacturing sector witnessed 74,000 starts, while the Construction sector had 21,000. Leading UK housebuilder, Redrow, released its second annual research report which revealed that, thanks to a positive shift in attitudes and the perception of construction, the apprenticeship pathway has improved, with a 14% increase in young people considering a career in the sector.

Discussing the report, Redrow’s Group HR Director, Karen Jones, said: “This year’s results illustrate that apprenticeships and careers in construction are being viewed in a more positive light.

“Apprenticeships are a way of futureproofing the UK workforce, particularly in sectors where there is a skills shortage, such as construction, so it is pleasing to see that progress is being made.”

Due to the introduction of the apprenticeship levy last year, it’s expected that success for apprenticeships will continue as the levy brings with it a new way of funding apprenticeship programmes. While some employers have snubbed the new levy as just being ‘another tax’, both large and small employers can benefit from the fund, meaning that 90% of apprenticeship training costs are funded by the government. Furthermore, employers within the construction sector can use up to 10% of the funding to train employees across the full supply chain — something not to be snubbed with the current shortage in skilled workers.

Apprenticeships are delivering the goods, according to UK Construction Media. A massive 86% of employers say that apprenticeships are helping them develop skills relevant to their organisation, and 78% believe they help improve productivity.

Furthermore, Develop Training’s CEO, Chris Wood, believes that apprenticeship programmes are indeed working, saying: “Working with some of the UK’s largest utility firms, our success rates have been very high. We and our customers have no doubt that, managed well, apprenticeships do work.”

He added: “New initiatives such as Trailblazer Apprenticeships and the Apprenticeship Levy have raised awareness across the UK. Even so, and despite huge skills shortages, many employers are still only scratching the surface of what they could be doing to use apprenticeships to attract new people to join the industry and improve the skills of existing employees.”

In terms of what the future holds, apprenticeships could be crucial to successfully fulfilling the demand in the construction industry.  With Downing Street committing itself to creating three million new apprenticeships by 2020, we could see the construction industry receiving a large chunk of those programmes. This will provide an opportunity to deliver a new generation of highly skilled workers — something that the industry is experiencing a lack of right now. In fact, the Director of the National Apprentice Service, Sue Husband, predicts that 2018 will be crucial for programmes. As more opportunities become available, now could be the time to cut yourself a slice of the apprenticeship programme success — and secure your future workforce now.


Trade body webinar sets out best practice in structural waterproofing for podium decks

January 28th, 2020 Comments off

A national trade body has produced a webinar to support architects and building professionals with the challenges of waterproofing podium decks.

While the construction of podium decks has been around for some time, the use of a basement roof structure to extend beyond the building line and under gardens has increased recently.

In line with this trend, the PCA’s specialist structural waterproofing members are reporting an increase in the number of calls requesting their advice and expertise to resolve a number of issues.

With this in mind, the PCA is bringing in one of the UK’s eminent experts in the subject area, Ben Hickman, to give insight into some of the key issues.

Ben, of CSSW.LONDON, a PCA Board Member and leading waterproofing design specialist, has recently completed a research Masters at the University of Cambridge focussing on podium deck waterproofing and is contributing to NHBC Chapter 7.1 task group.

He has also contributed to LABC technical manual development.

Ben will be sharing his expertise, including that gained as an expert witness on numerous failed podium deck waterproofing projects, in the webinar.

Content will include research on fundamental features of podium deck waterproofing, questions over whether podium decks need falls, top tips on podium deck waterproofing and case studies on failures.

More details about the live webinar – which is being held between 8am and 9am on  13 February – as well as booking details, can be found at

James Berry, PCA Technical Manager, said: “Ben brings together a wealth of expertise in an area of significant importance.

“Increasingly, our expert structural waterproofing members are being called upon to advise on failed systems for this type of structure after the construction phase in a bid to remedy problems.

“However, if advice can be given at an early stage, then costly mistakes can be rectified.

“Hopefully this webinar will go some way to share best practice.”

The webinar is the latest development from the PCA to raise awareness of and put forward solutions to tackle issues with podium decks.

In 2017, it produced the ‘Guidance Document – Podium Decks & Buried Roofs’ (PCA) to help the construction sector make informed decisions on the growing trend being seen in the UK to extend basement roof structures.

The document explains how their advice should be sought at the design stage to iron out problems and avoid costly repairs.

Available for free download from the PCA website it sets out the importance of gaining expert input at the design stage.

James added: “In line with this rise in popularity of podium decks, we produced this guidance document to help architects and construction professionals make informed choices in the waterproofing of such structures.

“Like all other waterproofing related failures, these problems can become costly to remedy when they are buried underneath complex fitments, expensive finishes and working or leisure surfaces.

“Often, members of the PCA are called in to put forward solutions to remedy the works, but we produced the guide to explain the importance of considering all waterproofing elements in the first place – at the design stage – and not as an afterthought when a problem arises.”


Late Payments Can Cripple Commercial Electrical Contractors: Here Are Some Tips On How To Get Paid Promptly

January 28th, 2020 Comments off

With late payments costing SMEs across the UK thousands of pounds to collect, and the total amount owed to small and medium sized enterprises across the country now totally £23.4 billion, it’s clear that this is a serious issue that needs to be addressed.

This is particularly true for commercial electrical contractors, as their time is particularly valuable as they’ve had to study for many years to earn the qualifications needed to fulfil their role. They might need to pay for additional support, equipment rental or parts, which will be paid out of their own pocket if the payment is late.

Late payments also affect the cashflow of a commercial electrical contracting business and can make it hard for it to continue working profitably.

As such, it’s important that commercial electrical contractors work to recoup the money they’re owed. Going to court is one option, but this can take a lot of time and incur considerable costs, so for those who are keen to avoid going down this route, here are some practical tips on how you can drive commercial clients to pay their invoices on time.

Provide Your Estimates Promptly

It’s important that you provide your clients with their estimates and other documents quickly and efficiently, so that they have no excuse not to do the same to you and pay their invoice on time. If you delay providing estimates, then they may use this as a justification for their late payment. One great way to create estimates quickly is to use Ensign, a software product which will quickly work out how long a job will take and how much it will cost, then create an accurate estimate of how much you should charge for it. All you need to do is visit to find out more about this innovative estimating software and how it can benefit you.

Speak Directly With The Accounts Department

Often, when working with businesses, particularly large organisations with multiple departments, it can be hard to communicate with the person who will be actually paying your invoice. As such, you should try to place your invoice directly into the hands of the person responsible for paying invoices and chase them directly. This will boost your chances of getting paid swiftly and ensure that your invoice doesn’t get lost on the way to the accounts department.

Highlight Your Qualifications

Commercial electrical contracting services are expensive because they require a lot of training, insight and qualifications, meaning that companies cannot bring this expertise in-house easily. If you ever find that your customers are late with making payment, or they query why your services are so costly, then take the time to explain the hard work and effort that went into earning the qualifications you had to earn to give them the service they received. You should also highlight the dangers that electricity poses and make it clear that your services are vital to the smooth running of your clients’ property and business. This should help them to understand the importance of working with a skilled and qualified contractor and drive them to pay their invoice without complaint.

Keep Chasing For Payment

When an invoice is long overdue, it can be easy to forget about it and not chase it, but this could lead your client to think that it’s not important. As such, you should make sure that you keep on top of your late payments and push for them to be paid. You can automate this function on most phones and email systems, allowing you to set of reminders and send scheduled messages. This will help to reinforce the message that the bill needs paying and, hopefully, get your invoice paid.

Offer Multiple Ways To Pay

In some instances, clients could be struggling to make payment for your services because they do not have the cash ready to pay or are slightly behind trend and only use cheques to make payment. They could also be too far ahead of the latest developments in payment technology and only make payment using innovative new solutions that you don’t currently use. As such, you should try to offer a variety of payment methods so that your clients will have no excuse not to pay and can easily find a way to pay their invoice that suits them.

Put An Interest Charge In Place For Severely Late Payments

Late payments can seriously disrupt your business and cause cashflow problems, so if you have payments that are really late, but you don’t want to go to court just yet, consider charging interest instead. This will incentivise clients to pay their bills. Send an updated invoice with the new charges and make it clear that the interest will continue to be charged the longer they avoid paying the bill. You could even offer to remove the interest charges from the invoice if it is paid immediately, to expedite the process and get your finances back on track.