In a year where UK construction has been crippled by material shortages, has seen raw material costs rise sharply, has generally endured supply chain disruption and continues to suffer because of a skills crisis, it’s all the more remarkable that the industry remains so generous and charitable. That’s the view of Tony Steel, Operations Director for the charity Band of Builders, who says that the industry’s ability to look after its own has trumped everything that 2021 has thrown at it.
The headlines about the construction industry have made for stark reading this year – rising prices, supply chain disruption and staff shortages have all played their part in starting to slow down the economic growth of an industry that, at some points, has been positively buoyant during the global pandemic.
And yet, in 2021, Band of Builders has seen a rise in partnership deals with big industry brands, spearheaded a national campaign aimed at encouraging those in the construction industry to open up about mental health issues, and delivered projects to improve the lives of tradespeople and their families who are battling life-changing illnesses or injuries.
As a registered charity that galvanises volunteer tradespeople who are happy to give their time for free to work on projects, we have completed five projects this year, including our biggest one to date.
A team of volunteer builders from as far afield as Dundee descended on North Wales to build a new, bigger ground-floor living space for the mum-of-two partner of a plasterer who was left relying on a wheelchair after having to have her legs amputated after contracting meningococcal septicaemia.
Merchants and supplier partners – including the likes of Jewson, Gibbs & Dandy, Resideo, DEWALT and Talasey – have all donated materials that they could have otherwise sold ten times over. And we’ve also forged and cemented partnerships with the likes of Regatta and V12, who have taken our cause to heart and come up with innovative ways to support us, such as designing a new range of Band of Builders work boots.
Suicide rates in the construction industry were already at one per day before the COVID pandemic, according to ONS figures, and it’s widely accepted that these have worsened to closer to two per day. Against this backdrop, we held our first ever national campaign: the Big Brew. More than 175 events were held across the UK to highlight the mental health crisis in the construction sector and encourage tradespeople to connect and talk over a cuppa.
None of what Band of Builders has achieved in 2021 would have been possible without the benevolence of individuals and organisations.We’re already looking to set our sights even higher in 2022, and the one thing we hope that we can do next year (which we haven’t been able to do this year) is to organise BBQs, music nights and other events as a way of bringing our volunteers and partners together regularly to increase the camaraderie of our 10,000+ community of supporters – and hopefully welcome even more people to Band of Builders.
2021 highlights at a glance:
· 5 projects completed this year
· 150 tradespeople worked on the projects
· 5,000 onsite hours volunteered on projects
· 12 projects confirmed for 2022 (applications at a record level) with another 7 being considered
· More than 175 Big Brew events held during October
· The Big Brew generated in £60,000 donations