Clearview South November 2013 - Issue 144 - Page 91

businessnews RISING COSTS THREATEN BUILDING RECOVERY Increases in material and labour costs could pose a serious threat to the fragile recovery in the building industry, warns the Federation of Master Builders (FMB). ‘Costs have remained high’ The FMB’s latest State of Trade Survey of member firms shows the net balance for workloads, expected workloads and enquiries in the third quarter of 2013 was positive across nearly all parts of the UK for the second quarter in a row. In particular, the private new build and residential repair and maintenance sectors saw a marked improvement, and overall 42% of small builders saw their workloads increase. However, material costs, wages and salaries are all expected to continue rising over the next six months, with the result that many building companies may have to put up their prices. Brian Berry, Chief Executive of the FMB, said: “Construction SMEs have battled to maintain staffing and capacity while trying to keep prices competitive. Material costs have remained high throughout 2013, and further increases could snuff out this recovery in its infancy, especially if companies that have cut their profit margins to the bone to beat the recession are now forced to pass on those costs to their customers.” NEW FIGURES SHOW RECORD NUMBERS OF APPRENTICES More people than ever before are taking part in an apprenticeship, according to the provisional figures published in October 2013. Nearly 860,000 people were on an apprenticeship in 2012/13 with the gold standard of higher and advanced levels attracting record levels of apprentices. The data also shows that there were over 1.5 million apprenticeship starts since 2010. Skills Minister Matthew Hancock said: “These figures show that a record 858,900 people participated in apprenticeships last year, which is almost 370,000 more than in 2009/10. “This is good news for the economy, and good news for those getting the skills they need to prosper. There are now more options than ever before with a focus on the quality and rigour that people and employers want from apprenticeships. “Our insistence that they must have a minimum duration, involve on-the-job training, and respond to the needs of employers means that it is rapidly becoming the new norm to take an apprenticeship or go to university.” All apprenticeships now routinely last a minimum of a year. That means that while more people than ever are in apprenticeships, the number of starts has not grown. However, removing very short 6 month apprenticeships is a vital part of driving up quality. The government will shortly be announcing further reforms to the system. The aim is to produce an apprenticeships model that matches and surpasses the best in the world. SUPPORTING UK EXPORTERS OVERSEAS The National Audit Office has underlined the need for a substantial contribution by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) and UK Trade and Investment (UKTI) if the Government’s target for increasing the value of UK exports to an annual £1 trillion is to be achieved. Since 2010, the Government has been increasingly committed to supporting UK exporters abroad and, in the 2012 Budget, announced its ‘ambition’ to double the value of exports by 2020 to £1 trillion a year. However, according to the report by the spending watchdog, current performance has been flat over the last two years against a background To read more, visit of weak global demand and, to meet the Government’s ambition, exports will have to grow by 10 per cent year on year. Many factors, which affect export performance, are outside the control of the FCO and UKTI, such as exchange rates and political and economic changes overseas. While the UK outperforms Germany, France and Italy in the Gulf, it has not traditionally performed as well in many other emerging markets, such as Russia, Brazil, Turkey and China. Success here is essential if the Government is to meet its target. “If the Government’s ambitious objective of export-led growth is to be pursued vigorously and cost-effectively, the FCO and UKTI need ‘According to the report by the spencing watchdog, current performance has been flat over the last two years against a background of weak global demand’ to adopt tough measurable objectives in terms of actions and results across their global networks, improve evaluation of impact, and work together more effectively,” Amyas Morse, head of the National Audit Office. NOV 2013 91