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Reflections on 2021

What a year it has been. After a challenging start to 2021, the summer began and COVID restrictions finally started to lift. It was great to get out once again and meet Members, and others from across the industry, as ECA’s events moved back to being in-person.

Although the recent emergence of the Omicron variant has once again thrown us into uncertainty, our sector has proved to be more buoyant and resilient than anyone expected over the last 12 months.

Overall, growth forecasts for construction are optimistic. Even better, electricity continues to pull ahead as the front runner for the future of UK heat and transport, as we make the long journey to net zero carbon. We must continue to drive home the message that our Members are the people with the skills to make the transition to net zero a reality. 

We are particularly keen to ensure that the road to Net Zero Carbon is achieved without compromising on safety and quality

Opportunities and challenges

As you’d expect, this positivity is countered by many significant challenges. Those I hear about repeatedly relate to staff shortages, materials availability, and cost volatility.

The reasons for the current material shortages, and their impacts on our industry, have been well aired. But it is important to note that this is unlikely to be a short-term problem. The evidence and forecasts I see suggest these issues will be with us and will affect all our Members for some time to come.

Given the significant risks involved, we are encouraging businesses to be cautious, and do what they can to mitigate these risks, particularly when taking on new work. ECA is always on hand to guide Members on how to limit commercial exposure, including practical guidance on operational steps to minimise risk.

ECA is actively involved with industry groups on skills and related matters

Although challenging, the availability of materials appears to be generally manageable for the time being. However, getting the right people with the right skills in the right numbers is a greater challenge. This is likely to worsen as new requirements come in and the ‘demographic timebomb’ sees more workers retiring. Fewer people in the workforce will reduce the scope of our Members to do business.

Leading the industry 

ECA is actively involved with industry groups on skills and related matters.  For instance, ECA leads the Construction Leadership Council’s work on competence, which is raising industry-wide standards and setting out appropriate skills to mitigate failings following the Grenfell disaster.  

We will continue to provide our Members with the best available information, advice and other support

In addition, we are involved with industry groups looking at the skills, knowledge and experience needed to achieve the UK’s Net Zero Carbon and supporting electrification agenda. We are particularly keen to ensure that the road to Net Zero Carbon is achieved without compromising on safety and quality.

You can rest assured that ECA continues to do everything possible to achieve its stated purpose of leading our industry and Members to growth and prosperity. However, we also recognise that ultimately it is our Members who deliver the nation’s electrical and other engineering services, and who deliver the safety, quality and functionality we all need. 

So, in addition to our vital representational activity, we will continue to provide our Members with the best available information, advice and other support to help them to do business successfully, safely and profitably.