Sir John Armitt, Chair of the National Infrastructure Commission, has addressed MPs and Peers at a meeting of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Infrastructure in the House of Commons, calling on ministers to take a “golden moment of opportunity” to make firm decisions on developing sustainable infrastructure beyond HS2 and accelerate existing planned projects as part of the government’s forthcoming National Infrastructure Strategy.
In his speech he recognised the pressure surrounding the politicians, advising “We understand that recent months have not always offered the best environment for making sound decisions on significant long-term spending commitments. But after more than 18 months of delay, we hope the stage is now set for a truly transformative strategy that will prove worth the wait.”
Of the £0.6 trillion National Infrastructure Plan, the utility sector is now the largest single contributor. In what is now ‘economic full employment’ and the tightest UK labour market since records began, ensuring that the quantity & quality of infrastructure workforce exists becomes ever more important to achieve productivity, affordability, safety and innovation.
On that issue, Sir John advised: “At present, there is an insufficiently joined-up approach to infrastructure skills development in the UK, with a wide range of responsible bodies operating across different geographic and political boundaries. The human capital aspects of the National Infrastructure Plan for Skills need to be refreshed to help ensure our pipeline of future workers is adequate for the challenges ahead.”
Energy & Utility Skills Chief Executive, Nick Ellins, publicly supported Sir John’s point, commenting “Virtually all of the key policy levers for UK infrastructure, the labour market, work, immigration and productivity now sit centrally but the subject of skills has become ever more marginalised, devolved and fragmented with no strategic coordination at all between macro and micro aims. With all four nations and every major UK business sector openly explaining the labour market challenge being faced, the time is right for a new government to provide the guiding mind and UK-wide collaboration, so that all the vital pieces of the workforce puzzle join up in to one recognisable picture.”
“The National Infrastructure Plan for Skills is now badly out of date. It is disconnected from the reality of the constricted UK labour market, from modern industrial strategy, the workforce needs of the sectors of strategic value to the economy and the UK’s uncoordinated approach to its critical human capital. In the light of the comments by Sir John, and the rapidly increasing expectations of infrastructure as the lifeblood of the economy, the Infrastructure & Projects Authority must now take action – as the designated owner of infrastructure’s skills strategy and as an infrastructure champion on behalf of HM Treasury.”
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