WITH construction output in the North-East expected to decline by an average of 0.8% per year between now and 2022, according to statistics released by the Construction Industry Training Board (CITB), Paul Dodsworth, Managing Director of Wates Construction North joins the debate on the strength of the region’s industry.

If you take the CITB’s statistics at face value, construction activity in the North-East is relatively low compared with the rest of the UK, which the CITB anticipates will see an annual increase in construction output of 1.3 per cent over the next three years.

But when you know the region’s industry as well as its contractors do, you know that these numbers undermine the real strength of construction in the North-East.

Output may be lower than the rest of the UK but we have a solid industry to be very proud of and one that many of our regional counterparts can learn from.

What some may dismiss as parochial, the North-East industry has a real advantage in how local the market is. For this reason it is extremely adept at collaboration.

Main contractors, suppliers, sub-contractors, consultants and clients all talk to one another and this creates a really healthy working environment where challenges can be overcome, solutions found and innovation created. The industry operates as a solid and cohesive machine where partnership working is always the priority and this can facilitate some great efficiencies.

We had a fantastic example of this recently in our appointment to Teesside University’s £21.4m Cornell Quarter, the university’s new accommodation development at the heart of its £300m campus masterplan.

Having recently completed the university’s National Horizons Centre, we were enlisted by the university to support them in fast tracking the new Cornell Quarter. We were able to find a procurement solution in Scape Venture and mobilise a team to take the project from concept to site in just 24 weeks. This is the kind of efficiency that is possible in the North-East.

As with every industry, investment in construction is its life blood and this takes many forms.

Investing in training for the future workforce is the obvious, but nevertheless vital, example of where investment is needed.

Having started my career as an apprentice bricklayer in Durham, this is something I’m very passionate about and it’s becoming increasingly urgent as nervousness around skills shortages increases as we approach Brexit.

But investment goes far beyond skills. Investment in innovation drives standards, investment in relationships drives success and investment in industry debate helps overcome challenges.

I’m very proud to lead a team that is engaged in best practice across the industry, which filters down to our supply chain partners and this adds immense value to our clients and their projects.

Now more than ever, financial stability in construction is being scrutinised and for very good reason. Clients, particularly those in the public sector, need and deserve assurance that their contractors are operating as sustainable businesses, that they're good employers and that they can deliver on their work commitments.

Wates is fortunate to be in a secure financial position and this makes us a trusted contractor for our clients but this also allows us to support our supply chain partners in the North-East. By working with our supply chain we can make sure that their work pipeline is sustainable so that they can plan their workload and employment accordingly.

Last summer Wates opened a new office in Durham, from which we changed our management structure and launched our strategy to continue to grow our business in the North-East with an emphasis on doing so in a way that would enhance the region’s industry.

We currently have a pipeline of over £150m of projects across the region and this positions us with a strong forward workload that allows us to focus on our strategy for 2021.

But we must never underestimate this position because it’s a privilege to work in the North-East and we want to do the market justice. We want to continue to invest in skills, we want to continue to be a responsible main contractor for our supply chain and we want to deliver high quality projects for our clients.

The North-East is a sleeping giant and it has a construction industry to be very proud of.