Construction industry faces a resourcing and skills crisis

We need to see an uptick in productivity as it is highly likely the workforce will be smaller in a decade’s time

31st August, 2017
Chief Executive of Cast Consultancy, Mark Farmer

What's your name?

Mark Farmer

What position do you hold?

I’m Chief Executive of Cast Consultancy, a specialist business working in the UK residential real estate and construction market

What are your day-to-day responsibilities?

Managing a small business can be quite dynamic with every day being a bit different. Cast is only 20 months old and we have been very lucky to have had the opportunity to work on some fantastic projects with great clients. My job has been to set the strategy, steer the ship in the right direction and when I’m allowed, do some actual project delivery!

What is your professional background?

I am a Chartered Quantity Surveyor by background. I have worked in most construction sectors over the years including on major civil engineering projects, retail, industrial and commercial projects. In the last 15-20 years I have specialised in residential development and investment markets. In early 2016 I was commissioned by the UK’s Construction Leadership Council, at the request of the UK Government, to undertake a review of the construction industry’s labour model, specifically looking at the issues of skills and innovation. The last two years has been a fascinating and fulfilling period of my professional career spanning the authoring of a major industry report as well as setting up a new business!

Tell me about yourself away from work?

I am married with three kids so enjoy spending as much time with the family as possible. I also enjoy various country pursuits such as walking, fishing and shooting.

Tell us something very few people know about you?

I am a closet palaeontologist (fossil hunter), a legacy of my boyhood hobby! I have tried to keep my eye in over the years.

You are speaking at the 2017 Construction Industry Federation conference. What are you speaking about?

I will be talking about the fundamental challenges that I laid down in my 2016 review of construction entitled 'Modernise or Die'. Although commissioned by the UK government and focused on the UK construction sector, I believe it has strong resonance with the Irish construction market with some very similar issues high up on the agenda.

What challenges do you see for the construction sector?

We have some serious structural issues that perhaps we have not seen before. Personally, I think the resourcing and skills crisis is the most frightening one. The insidious onset of an ageing workforce coupled with a real struggle to get sufficient numbers of high calibre new entrants attracted into our industry represents one of the big seminal moments for construction. This issue transcends some of the more regularly talked about problems we suffer from but which have never in themselves created an existential threat. This new burning platform moves the debate urgently towards the need for a fundamental change in our basic delivery model and embracing the opportunity provided by technology.

Where would you like to see the industry in 10 years time?

Ideally, we need to be well on the course to having grasped the modernisation challenge. We need to be seeing a noticeable uptick in productivity and predictability as it is highly likely the workforce will be smaller in a decade’s time. This will create a very real constraint on broader economic growth unless we have been successful in reforming some of our basic delivery models such that we are able to do more with less. This does not mean the entire industry will look different. I believe a sustainable industry is one where traditional practices (albeit still delivered better) co-exist with more modern and progressive approaches. If we are still delivering business as usual I fear things will look pretty bleak for the construction industry.

Mark Farmer will be delivering the morning keynote address at the Construction Industry Federation's Annual Conference at Croke Park on October 12th. For more information on tickets, which are open to members and non-members, please visit

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