The economy & the industry in West Yorkshire – Oliver Myers, Kirklees Council
West Yorkshire is thriving! There is a real positive momentum within the region, being driven by the arrival of HS2 and the push to unlock opportunities through linking cities and towns across the North through new infrastructure schemes and collaborative partnerships. Growth however brings challenges, and one of those currently at the forefront of potential constraints is the need for skilled workers and attracting youth into the construction and property industry.
Ahead of the West Yorkshire Economic Growth Conference, which is set to bring together the region’s civic and business leaders, we hear from Oliver Myers, a 21 years old Technician within Kirklees Council’s Building Control Team, of the future for the industry, the benefits and appeals of the industry, and how West Yorkshire is set to continue thriving.
Oliver Myers, Technician – Kirklees Council’s Building Control Team
The office for national statistics recently reported that the economy of the construction industry has reached its highest level on record with a value of nearly £100 Billion (Office for National Statistics, 2017). However that being said, the industry is now exposed to various risks that could threaten the economy, one of these risks is something that is on everyone’s minds at the minute – Brexit. Brexit has caused the UK economy to weaken, and coupled with the uncertainty of the potential access to the European markets, has caused fear for the growth of the construction industry.
There is a mass shortage of skilled workers in the construction industry in the UK, with the main shortages being Bricklayers, Carpenters (site joiners), and Electricians. This creates a lot of opportunity for young and newly qualified skilled workers to step up and gain employment, as the Governments plans to build 300,000 new homes annually will require a massive influx of skilled workers. There is also a number of large scale projects that are soon to commence, which will require a large amount of skilled workers. Some of these large scale projects include the HS2 project, the Kirkstall Forge project in Leeds, the Heathrow 3rd runway project and the new leisure facilities outside the John Smiths Stadium. The Kirkstall Forge project for example, is planned to create 1,050 new homes, 400,000 sq. feet of office, retail, and leisure space. There are many constraints on the plot, including site contaminants, and a large river running through the site. This will call for a lot of planning and designing, as well as desktop studies and engineering, thus increasing the need for professional construction services, alongside the skilled workforce. The same can also be said for the Heathrow Terminal 3rd runway project, where a massive push will be put on the professional and engineering services, ensuring the runway is safe and usable.
I work in building control, assisting builders and contractors to adhere to the building regulations set out by the government. I work as a technician, and my main duties are to check over plans for any immediate contraventions laid out on the plan. I also visit construction sites and check that what the builders on site are doing, are in accordance with the plans that have been accepted. I got into Building control within the local authority after gaining experience as a labourer on small construction sites, an estimator, and as a building condition surveyor with a private company. The route that I took into surveying was not easy, it required a lot of knowledge and looking at textbooks, however it did not seem like an impossible task.
There are many reasons for people to stay in the construction industry, being, the opportunities for progression within the industry, the amount of new large size projects looking to start within the next 5 years, as well as the amount of working opportunities due to the skills shortage the UK is experiencing. The opportunities within the construction industry can be very good, and accompanied with qualifications and experience, a skilled tradesman can work their way up to becoming site manager, project manager, and a lot of tradesmen with experience do go on to becoming self-employed or starting their own company up. West Yorkshire is also the prime place to be with regards to projects starting, there are many starting within the next five years. In Huddersfield alone, there is estimated to be over £500 million spent on regeneration and new buildings in the town. These buildings include the refurbishment of the Kingsgate shopping centre in the town centre, a new £30 million university building and the £70 million HD One project run by the owners of the John Smiths Stadium.
The HD One project is set to incorporate a new leisure centre, hotel, ski slope and a number of restaurants, meaning there is to be a varied workload, with multiple different disciplines, including structural and civil engineers, highway engineers, scaffolders, bricklayers, joiners and so on. Working on these projects would give a sense of purpose for what you are doing, as this would directly affect you, and would give a sense of achievement. As well as the large projects in the town centre, there are also new large housing estates, including 80 new homes in the Batley area, as well as new housing in Leeds, Halifax and Wakefield smaller towns such as Holmfirth and Keighley.
All of these new construction projects are expected to massively boost the regional economy, with the new HD One project looking to bring in consumers from around the local area, which will boost sales and create new jobs for the local area. Also, the new housing estates mean that there will be more consumers in the area, using the local facilities and contributing to the economic growth of the area of West Yorkshire.
It’s clearly an exciting time for both the West Yorkshire regional economy and the UK. There may be constraints and challenges but that also brings huge opportunities for individuals like myself to learn and progress through the industry, whilst enabling more companies and businesses to get involved in the biggest projects across the country – and I’m looking forward to seeing the results of the next ten years as these schemes come to fruition.
The West Yorkshire Economic Growth Conference on the 18th September 2018 is to be held at The Dock in Leeds. Prices start from £60.