The construction industry skills gap
There is so much debate at the moment about the skills gap the industry is finding itself in. Of course part of the problem is that the UK economy is just beginning to pull itself out of the biggest black hole most of us have ever seen. Many people left the industry through this time, whether through choice or necessity and its unlikely they will be attracted back.
So now the focus is on how to make careers in the sector attractive to school kids and how to shift the perception of a career in construction from being one of labouring to one of aspirational achievement. Of course, many a successful career in construction was started on the tools, but trades are considered to be something only boys who didn’t try harder at school end up doing, rather than the highly-skilled occupation they really are.
The point is that the impact and purpose of the industry isn’t understood by people responsible for careers advice (including parents); its myriad benefits, including forming the backbone of the economy, improving communities and creating jobs. The industry is also one of the places you will definitely see the most awe-inspiring courage and ingenuity on a daily basis. I have often wondered why this isn’t more widely understood, appreciated and communicated.
Leveraging marketing to provide a solution
My proposal to the industry is for it to leverage some of the fantastic marketing and communications talent it has to tell the construction story. Not just once, but over and over and over, using a variety of appropriate channels and media including activities, writing, images and video and to a wide spectrum of non-industry stakeholders.
The role of social media
The built environment is such a visual industry that it is ideal for social media. I saw a fantastic time-lapse camera shared on LinkedIn by Clancy Consulting today . Time lapses aren’t new in themselves, they’ve been around for ages, but this was the first time I had ever seen one shared through social media channels. You can see the film here. I love this kind of thing and wish it was more accessible. It’s also rare to see photos or case studies of projects, unless you specifically know where to look. Why isn’t this sort of collateral more widely shared?
There are two key challenges to my idea. Firstly budget. I know the industry isn’t awash with money at the moment, but let’s find inexpensive solutions, particularly as most people are lucky enough to own smart phones these days. Share progress photos and videos via Twitter and LinkedIn. Share collateral wherever you can. Connect with local schools and start dialogues.
The second is the role and perception of marketing. It’s time to integrate the discipline properly into the sector and into projects. Let us help and support you to communicate and tell the story. Doing this will ensure more stakeholders understand the role and value of construction, and it will be more attractive to people considering their career options.
It’s awards season again in the built environment. Time to take stock of the achievements of the past 12 months and write compelling submissions to get shortlisted and hopefully win. Here is an ongoing list of construction and built environment awards you may wish to enter.
Awards are a key part of the built environment communications strategy for any organisation working in the sector. They provide an excellent opportunity to showcase talent and innovation, and shortlisting gives validation and benchmarking against competitors. Shortlisting alone has a lot of PR value and can be used in case studies and other collateral, such as web and tweets. Winning categories amplifies this value. The pinnacle of awards is of course attending the event, taking team members and client representatives to network and ‘be seen’ in a sparkly environment.
So, follow my top tips to guarantee being shortlisted.
#1 – Obtain the buy-in of the client and the project team
Finally, get the buy-in of the client and the rest of the project team. Make them aware of what you are doing and if you can share the load, so much the better!
#2 – Understand your organisation’s marketing
Understand your organisation’s marketing and business development strategy. In which sectors does it want to raise its profile or win new business? Select awards on the basis of gaining exposure in these specific sectors.
#3 – Understand the awards you are submitting for
Do some research into previous winners and shortlisters and assess whether your organisation, project or product is a good fit. Do the awards have the profile and reach you are looking for? Is there a fee to enter? Will you have the time and marketing budget to attend the awards ceremony?
#4 – Project, rather than award-led
Award submissions need to be project-led, rather than award-led.
- Select categories on the basis of having compelling stories to tell, which are supported with strong evidence.
- Statistics, photos and glowing testimonials from clients and other project team members all constitute strong evidence.
- Evidence also provides a strong framework and context for your entry and will often reduce the word count.
- If you can’t pull this information together, consider carefully the value in proceeding.
#5 – Review all of the questions in advance of starting the submission
Review all of the questions. Can you answer them all properly and concisely? Don’t risk the submission by fudging some of the answers. Judges can’t be fudged!
#6 – Respect the wordcount
Don’t ignore or disregard the specified word count. Be targeted, focussed and concise in your response. If you are struggling with this, ask a professional writer to review and edit for you. They can magically turn ten words into one, without losing the technical meaning.
#7 – Review process
Build time into the process for proof-reading, double-checking and making any necessary amends. Although typos are a fact of life, they won’t win you any points or enhance your reputation with the judging panel.
I have been writing construction and built environment awards submissions for 12 years. If you would like to chat through any submissions you are thinking of, please get in touch.
The people over at Marketing Works have been working with the University of Reading on a piece of research to understand the true cost of submitting bids in the construction industry, updating the original work undertaken in 2003.
The research is wide-ranging and surveys costs across contractors, subcontractors and consultants, sectors, and project values.
This is a timely piece of research, particularly in light of the recent UK SBS fiasco. If bid costs represent significant overheads for organisations in the construction industry, how can this process be more streamlined and how can competitors make sure they are successful?
I spoke with Philip Collard recently on how things were looking, ahead of the December deadline and he shared with me some interesting findings at this stage. Philip has also shared these on his Twitter feed, so I’m not saying anything I shouldn’t!
Key findings at this stage include:
- 18% responses are from consultants.
- 9% responses came from sub-contractors.
- 33% responses came from main contractors.
- The average cost of a bid is approximately £45k, an increase of £15k from 2003.
- A significant proportion of the bid spend is now in pre-bid activities, suggesting more activities around understanding the client before developing bid solutions and responses.
- A Tier 1 contractor showed average bid costs being £200K+ for projects in £20-50 million bracket. Bidding costs equate to a significant chunk of overhead for businesses operating in this space.
The deadline to complete the survey is 5 December and input can be provided here: #bidcostsurvey2014. Results and analysis will be published in February 2015.
Follow the #bidcostsurvey2014 on Twitter to be part of the conversation.