Welsh construction needs to retain its independent voice

Construction is the great enabler for the Welsh economy. Wales needs better infrastructure. It needs more housing. The housing it has now needs to be more energy efficient.

We need better schools and we need to have improved and newer hospitals. Most of all, we need to create a world class environment that is fit for future generations.

Only construction can deliver these things.

Yet, right now, there is no construction strategy. The sector has no formal representation within the Welsh Government. Any strategic engagement that construction industry has is at best fractured and at worst minimal, not coordinated and led by niche groups with vested interests.

There is no overall vision or approach that joins the dots.

The only group that does bring all the elements together of construction – design, planning, engineering, build, the supply chain and the different clients and customers from central and local government and private concerns – is Constructing Excellence in Wales (CEW). But, the Government is withdrawing its funding of CEW in 2018.

The irony is that CEW is doing better than ever. There are more entries to our CEW Awards than in the previous 10 years and more than 600 people attended the celebrations at the Celtic Manor in our biggest ceremony to date – you can see the winners and details of the event at www.cewales.org.uk/cew-awards.

What's more, Welsh construction needs CEW. Very soon, construction activity in Wales – which touches everyone – is probably going to be at the highest for many years.

This level of activity brings with it its own challenges – the ever-present skills deficit, an aging workforce, culture, behaviour issues – all things that we have failed to address properly.

We have recent legislation here in Wales which will have a serious impact on how we deliver as an industry – the "Well-being of Future Generations (Wales) Act 2015 and the Environment (Wales) Act 2016.

These are just a couple of reasons why, as an industry, we need to come together, stand together, be seen together and be heard together – something CEW allows to happen, acting as conduit with a voice in the Welsh Government.

The lack of coherent thinking around construction, the Welsh Government commitment to Future Generations and the environment means CEW's role as an objective champion of industry best practice is more crucial than ever.

To build a Wales for future generations, Welsh construction must continue to drive forward, producing the high-quality results that can only be achieved through value-based procurement and collaborative working.

This is what CEW champions and its work has had a real, positive impact on the Welsh built environment.

Take CEW out of the equation and there is a real risk that without its advocacy, the industry could slide back into the old adversarial culture, with price-driven tenders and short-term thinking producing substandard buildings.

If there is no united campaigning voice then we run the risk of missing all the targets set out by the Welsh Government.

CEW is the independent champion the industry needs to guide it through the challenges ahead. No one else has our influence and expertise. No one else represents the sector at every level of Welsh Government. No one else offers such a breadth of advice, guidance and support.

We champion value and best practice. We promote collaborative working and integrated teams. It's essential to a successful future for Wales.

For now, the work of CEW continues because it must. One objective we are pursuing is setting up a taskforce to review the country's construction procurement strategy – a key action recommended in the review of the hard hitting No Turning Back report.

No one else is going to take this pan-industry perspective and drive change and business improvement in construction.

It's an approach that is succeeding. It has support and it will continue to effect real, meaningful improvement – with or without Government support. But with industry backing we can carry on.

Award winners:

CEW 2017 Awards was one of the biggest celebrations of Welsh construction with more than 600 people attending at the Celtic Manor and more entrants than ever before. The full list of winners is below, but you can find out more about each of them via www.cewales.org.uk/ cew-awards/ at the CEW website.

Integration & Collaborative Working Award 2017
Dyfatty Refurbishment, Interserve Construction

Sustainability Award 2017
Winner
Holywell Learning Campus, Galliford Try
Highly Commended
Ysgol Hafod Lon, Gwynedd Council

Value Award 2017
Our Space, Public Health Wales

Health, Safety & Wellbeing Award 2017
Knox & Wells Ltd

Innovation Award 2017
SPECIFIC IKC – Active Classroom

Digital Construction Award 2017
Unlocking Rail Electrification Data. Arup and ABC Electrification Ltd

Chairman's Special Award 2017
CUBRIC/BAM Construction

Client of the Year 2017
Flintshire County Council

Preservation Rejuvenation Award 2017
Waterworks, Torfaen County Borough Council

People Development Award 2017
A465 Section 2, Costain

Special Recognition
Jistcourt (South Wales) Limited

Project of the Year 2017 - Civils
Tremorfa Food Waste Anaerobic Digestion Plant, Encon Construction Ltd

Project of the Year 2017- Buildings
Ysgol Bae Baglan, Bouygues (BYUK)

Highly commended
Rhyl High School, Willmott Dixon

SME of the Year 2017
Category 1-50
Lawray Architects

Category 51-250
Jistcourt (South Wales) Limited

Young Achiever of the Year 2017
Matthew Myerscough – Cass Hayward LLP