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CIOB parliamentary reception shows the construction industry is serious about building back better

CIOB Chief Executive Officer, Caroline Gumble, delivering her keynote speech during the parliamentary reception, joined by James Sunderland MP to her right

Chartered Institute of Building

4 min read Partner content

Last week, construction professionals and parliamentarians came together for CIOB’s first parliamentary reception since March 2020. Hosted by James Sunderland MP and sponsored by Glodon, the event was an opportunity to review the current state of the industry and its ambitions for the future.

Almost two years on from CIOB’s last parliamentary event, there was a lot of excitement in the Churchill Room on 7th December to discuss the resilience of the construction industry since the onset of COVID-19 and how it can build back better.

Addressing this head on during her keynote speech, Chief Executive Officer of CIOB, Caroline Gumble, who leads the organisation’s 46,000 members, said that "the pandemic not only changed the way we lived and worked on a short-term basis but will change the way many of us work for years to come…I’d like to focus on the changes for the better and what we can learn”.

Gumble’s commitment to addressing current challenges in construction was timely, coming after the recent launch of CIOB’s Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Charter, outlining how the industry’s workforce can better reflect the makeup of society as a whole.

Expanding on this, Gumble said: “I encourage sector employers to sign up to the Charter…the Charter is an opportunity to promote what you are doing and your commitment to making the industry a more attractive place to work. It sends a clear message, not just to existing employees, but to potential future recruits and clients too”. Echoing this, James Sunderland MP, during his opening remarks said that “we need to do an awful lot more to attract that diversity”.

Gumble also highlighted the need for cultivating talent within the industry. In doing so, she stressed the importance of “improving access to quality education” and working conditions “to ensure a pipeline of professionals committed to careers in construction”.

Commenting on this further, Gumble said:

“One of the most pressing requirements for our industry’s successful future is that we need more people to come into construction. But we know construction has historically had a poor reputation – poor on-site working conditions, high suicide rates, under-representation of women and those from ethnic minority backgrounds, long and unsociable hours -- to give just a few examples”.

CIOB Chief Executive, Caroline Gumble, with Labour MP for Ealing Central and Acton, Rupa Huq

CIOB’s parliamentary reception follows the landmark COP26 conference, which has put the need to tackle climate change at the forefront of public consciousness. Gumble in her speech outlined the essential role that the industry must play to tackle net zero by helping to upgrade the UK’s existing housing stock through “repair, maintenance and improvement”, alongside a commitment to “a greener, more carbon neutral economy”. On this, Gumble said: “we do need to scale up our commitment to the net zero agenda, to innovate, to embrace digital construction. We have an important part to play in supporting the economy and society. It’s a big task -- we are more than up to the challenge”.

Meanwhile, Sunderland said that “what was achieved in Glasgow was unprecedented”, emphasising a need for the UK’s housing stock to align with net zero given the built environment accounts for approximately 40% of carbon emissions in the UK. Crucial to this, he said, was “better choice” for consumers, citing as an example the “huge” cost of switching from gas to heat pumps.

CIOB Director of Policy, External Affairs and Research, Eddie Tuttle, with Conservative MP for St Ives, Derek Thomas

Building safety was another key aspect of the agenda during the reception. Commenting on this, James Sunderland MP said that the Government is “delivering on its commitment to build 300,000 homes per annum” but there is a need to “do it properly”. He went on to say that the Building Safety Bill “is very welcome” in this regard due to its focus on the need to address quality, noting that "CIOB have been at the forefront of that work”.

CIOB’s Royal Charter mandates a commitment to working in the public interest. Whether that is driving up building quality, proactively addressing net zero or enhancing social mobility, CIOB is on a mission to make sure this principle is placed at the forefront of UK construction as we recover from the pandemic.

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