It was barely one hour into the FIT Show when Kevin Buckley, GGF group chief executive provided visitors to his opening seminar with some food for thought, as he shared the GGF’s findings from the extensive research conducted by the Federation in 2018. The GGF’s market research set out to gauge market sizes and trends, but just as important, it was devised to give members a platform from which the GGF could listen to expectations and concerns and enable the GGF to look for solutions to help companies prepare for changes in an ever-evolving business environment.
The GGF surveyed hundreds of leading companies in the UK market asking for their views on business growth, the barriers to growth and also their perspectives on key issues affecting the industry. Here are the key highlights and commentary from the presentation.
On business growth in 2019:
• Over half of companies in the UK industry expect to grow
• A quarter expect no growth
• One in ten companies expect a decrease in business
On employment in the industry:
• 31% of companies expect to increase their number of employees
• Over 50% expect their workforce to remain at the same level
On the barriers to growth
• 4 in ten companies felt increasing competition in the market would prevent growth
• One third felt there could be a reduction in demand for their products
• 40% felt their business would struggle to grow because of the lack of available skilled labour
• Almost half of those surveyed (46%) believed economic uncertainty would be a barrier to business growth.
During his presentation, Kevin commented on the pending issue of the UK leaving the European Union.
“We are acutely aware of the issues ahead including the potential impact of Brexit with or without a deal. Concerns such as increased skilled labour shortages, potential materials shortages and of course the maintenance of technical standards have been high in our priorities. The GGF has been extensively involved in discussions with government and other construction trade bodies on this subject. We have been cascading information to our members and the wider industry via trade, political and the broader media to help the industry prepare for the worst-case outcomes. However, the most useful advice I can offer is, ‘be prepared’. There’s a lot of information out there and the GGF is helping members to navigate and understand it.”
Energy efficiency was the next area addressed by Kevin as he revealed the following in his presentation.
o Over half believed lack of government initiatives was a factor
o Lack of consumer awareness of the benefits of energy efficiency (just under half of respondents felt this was a cause preventing growth in the sector)
o Just over one third felt Government policies and legislation didn’t endorse energy efficient glazing
In light of these results, Kevin added: “The GGF is highly proactive on the promotion of energy efficiency and healthy homes. There’s a great deal going on behind the scenes and we’re involved in; the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Energy Efficiency, roundtable discussions with local and national Government departments and holding dialogue with Ministers to local councillors through to senior civil servants. We are also in collaboration with key partners such as British Energy Efficiency Federation, Construction Products Association and National Home Improvement Council. In addition, we have been responding to consultations such as the recent review of the rate of VAT for energy saving products and lobbying for glazing to be included in the 5% rating instead of the 20% rating.”
The seminar also covered the growing concern around shortages of skilled labour in the industry. The GGF research showed that 40% of companies see it as a growing problem affecting their business. Respondents to the survey also indicated the type of training they need, and this has resulted in the GGF developing its “Training the Industry” programme.
The GGF survey on training showed:
• 58% of companies want surveyor training
• 48% want installer training
• 44% want Fire Resistant Glazing Training
Kevin commented: “When we received the results of the training survey last year, we set out our training strategy and in October 2018, we launched our first training courses as part of our broad training programme. Today we are offering accredited training courses in five different locations across the UK and Ireland covering Installation, Surveying and Fire-Resistant Glazing Installation. We’ve also recently spoken to government, calling for reform on the subject of Trailblazer apprenticeships in our sector and more recently, as a supporter of the Building our Skills campaign, we are keen to raise visibility of careers in our industry to school leavers and people of all ages who are looking to change career. Our industry has many positive career paths and we were pleased to be part of the Skills Thursday debates during the FIT Show.”
On his debut at FIT Show, Kevin summed up the experience: “It is my first visit to FIT Show and to be asked to do such a broad and important presentation in just 20 minutes, at the very start of the show, was fairly challenging. However, I hope those who attended, found the information shared both interesting and useful. These are just some of the findings from our research and we will be revealing more in-depth research data later this year at our Members’ Day in September. Finally, I would like to thank the FIT Show organisers for the opportunity to present at the exhibition.”