MIA annual lunch business presentations
Three presentations on matters of interest to the mortar industry were given by specialists during the business session of the Mortar Industry Association’s 44th annual lunch held in London on 7 May.
What skills shortage?
Title of the presentation given by the president of the Guild of Bricklayers, Jim Howe – ‘What skills shortage?’ – pretty much summed up his feelings on recent conjecture about the availability of skilled bricklayers in the UK.
He pointed out that recent years of poor economic performance in the UK had certainly led to many in the trade leaving the industry for good but stressed the good work now being done at the 540 UK colleges offering brickwork training meant that high quality people were now available to the construction industry.
Latest national figures, said Mr Howe, showed that the number of bricklayers claiming job seeker’s allowance had dropped to its lowest level in at least a decade, down sharply to 1,775 from a peak of 15,425 in March 2009. They also showed construction wages are up an annual 4%, making it one of the strongest performing sectors for pay growth.
Citing Stockport College as an example of an average size establishment offering brickwork training, Mr Howe projected the likely numbers of bricklaying learners and apprentices now on site. He said that if Stockport puts 39 such people on site and there are 540 such colleges in the country, the UK does have some 21,000 learners and apprentices now working on sites throughout the country.
New NHBC Standards Chapter 5.4
NHBC engineering policy manager, Sally Boorer, explained how her organisation is working to protect house owners through the development of standards and introduced its latest, 'Waterproofing of basements and other below ground structures'.
Work on standards is achieved by forming an industry task force, through consultation and subsequent assessment by a standards committee.
The latest standard provides guidance for walls, floors and foundations and is intended to prevent water ingress during the design life of a building. It covers design, the materials to be used and details site requirements.
Prospects for the mortar industry
Julian Clapp of BDS Marketing Research looked at prospects for the mortar industry.
While production of mortar in 2014 was about 25% down on 2007 output, production in 2014 was over 35% up on that experienced in 2010.
Setting mortar prospects in the overall picture of future construction industry activity meant you can take either an optimistic or pessimistic view, he said.
The optimistic view looked at UK infrastructure growth, housing needs of 250,000 units a year, recovery of the commercial market, the Hinkley Point project and energy and waste schemes. To be balanced against these was the pessimistic view – rising interest rates, overheating house prices, the Greek economy, the UK political scene, US and European recession and the mounting pressure of UK debt.
However, prospects for the mortar industry overall look favourable. Mr Clapp quoted MPA figures showing year on year growth of 9% for 2015, 5% for 2016 and 3% for 2017.
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