James Talman, NFRC’s CEO, takes a look back at the first half of 2022, which has seen a number of challenges for roofers and the wider industry to contend with, and outlines some of the work NFRC has been carrying out to ensure “that businesses and individuals in roofing are well equipped to face them.”
As we pass the halfway point of 2022, it’s useful to reflect on the progress we’ve made in the year so far. In the first six months of the year – which many hoped would bring relief from the continued consequences of the Covid-19 pandemic – contractors have faced a number of challenges to contend with, including rapid cost inflation, ongoing poor material availability and labour shortages, new regulation and an end to the red diesel rebate, to name just a few. NFRC is intent on supporting members and the wider industry to weather the storm, and below I have outlined a small selection of the work we have kickstarted in the first half of 2022, responding to both longstanding and emerging challenges.
Meeting the skills challenge
It will not be news to anyone that roofing, cladding and the wider construction industry face a skills challenge. As an industry we struggle to find the people with the right skills to do the job, and NFRC’s quarterly State of the Roofing Industry survey, which we have compiled since late 2020, has consistently confirmed this, with firms struggling to recruit in roles from slaters and tilers, to built-up felt roofers to estimators. CITB estimated in 2021 that the industry needed 217,000 new workers over the following five years to plug the gap. As demand persists, we run the risk of cowboys taking on work that should be done by someone with the appropriate skills.
2022 began with a key move from NFRC on this front, with the launch of the NFRC Careers Service, a resource available to anyone online at nfrc.co.uk/careers, targeted at those seeking to enter the industry and employers looking to attract, recruit and retain new talent.
NFRC members also have access to our Head of Careers – Ruth Scarrott, who can aid firms in improving their offer to candidates, help demystify the processes of recruiting new people, and support the development of training and upskilling provision.
Helping the industry find its feet on sustainability
The end of 2021 saw the release Future (P)roof, a report commissioned by the NFRC Charitable Trust and conducted by the University of Southampton, to explore the role of our rooftops in fighting the effects of climate change and helping to ensure our buildings can stand up to warmer, wetter weather. We have followed this up in 2022 with a number of new and continued initiatives.
One new initiative is the NFRC Sustainability Group, made up of knowledgeable and enthusiastic individuals from both NFRC trade and supplier member organisations, aiming to tackle key challenges that businesses face in terms of sustainability and their environmental impact, currently emphasising the issue of waste.
NFRC has also recently gained representation on the City of London’s Skills for a Sustainable Skyline Taskforce, and will be contributing to work on meeting the need for green skills in the capital.
Facing mounting pressures is easier when there’s help on hand
Numerous challenges from inflation, to heavy workloads and not enough workers, to a wave of new regulations, can take their toll on firms, and many individuals have felt considerably under pressure, whether that’s physically, mentally or financially. NFRC saw the need to help, and in March launched a partnership with ARAG, offering members a free legal, tax and HR helpline. From contract disputes to corporation tax, they are on hand to assist. There is also a counselling helpline for member companies and their employees – an important part of the service, as Mates in Mind reported in February this year that a third of construction workers say they experience an elevated level of anxiety every day.
As an industry we find ourselves still facing a host of challenges, but NFRC is doing everything it can to make sure that businesses and individuals in roofing are well equipped to face them.