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Glazing Clippings and Musings September 2016 by Helen Duval

There has been a buoyancy regarding Glasstec this year as innovation and investment seem to have been key for companies when reflecting on the success of the leading trade fair show in Dusseldorf.   No doubt there will be plenty of fruits from the labours of the R&D departments, marketing teams and company owners who visited, and it will be exciting to see how the lead conversion fares post event.  Likewise, discovering the UK’s positioning in relation to the US market will be interesting, with GlassBuild America on the close horizon, opening its doors on October 19 this year in Nevada.  It will be an event to watch in relation to future market progression with our neighbours across the Atlantic.

Construction, Building and Home Renovation continue to appear positive despite UK employers raising concerns regarding high-skilled employee recruitment.  This year’s CBI survey demonstrated that out of 500 employers 69% worried about being able to source enough skilled staff compared to 55% last year.

For Josh Hardie, Deputy Director General at the CBI, tackling the skills shortage was of paramount importance, citing Brexit as a major setback to tackling the gap.  According to the survey resolving this issue could evolve into a worsening scenario now the decision has been made to leave the EU.

He commented, ”Not only will we have our existing UK skills shortages to address, but potentially reduced access to migrant skills,” which he considered would affect business considerably.

As a consequence The Chartered Institute of Building has launched a call for evidence into skills, materials and new technology across the housing sector. This forms part of a wider coalition convened by the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) and the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for Housing and Planning.

New Taskforce

A new taskforce, that operates across 12 focal areas of work has already met with Housing Minister Gavin Barwell MP, to evaluate options regarding the housing crisis.  This will cover everything from planning reform to housing associations and construction skills to mortgage finance. A report is due from the separate sectors at the end of the year.

The construction labour market will be one of the key areas addressed by the CIOB with focus placed on availability, productivity and diversity.  Materials and new technology, primarily off-site manufacturing and modern methods of construction (MMC),  will be assessed with policies developed from this.

David Hawkes, CIOB Policy Manager, commented,  “At its most basic level, what this work-stream boils down to is capacity. Studies have shown the housing sector needs 120,000 new employees just to meet the required annual level of homes the UK needs. At the same time, house builders say they cannot build more than 150,000 homes per year via conventional means.”

Looking at future direction and moving forward positively without being beleaguered by negative expectancy has been a hard task in some quarters.  The Glass industry appears to have taken a balanced view with many companies talking of development and growth with the right attitude.  From a fiscal perspective it would seem that some members of the Monetary Policy Committee seem to share the same opinion.

A Calmer Economy?

Kristin Forbes, an external member of the MPC has indicated that she is not keen to cut interest rates further this year, justifying this position by stating that the economy has performed better than expected post Brexit vote.  Recently she argued that the economy had been “less stormy than many expected” following the shock referendum result.

At a speech to Imperial College, London she commented, “Looking forward, I am not yet convinced that additional monetary easing will be necessary to support the economy”.  While Michael Saunders, a former economist at Citi, said to The Financial Times that he saw “scope for UK growth to pick up before feeding through into damaging inflation”

Across the sector there have been some positive messages of growth to date this year with companies including Guardian Glass, the Thermoseal Group, City Glass Works and Morley Glass recently highlighting new avenues of growth, all of which you can read in our latest edition or online.

Written by Helen Duval 2016

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