Anthony Oliver of NCE has hosted a panel looking at planning, procurement and people and how to resolve tensions across them.
Richard Summers of the Royal Town Planning Institute told delegates that the real key was to get the geography of planning right, focusing the right efforts at the right places and the right people in those places.
Mr Summers said that planners have talked to the public through generations and would be unable to plan properly without engaging locally as well as with politicians. The new proposals set up a new tier in neighbourhood plans that have statutory status. But he warned that it is yet unknown how they will resource the skills needed to play their role well. But he had some optimism that it would evolve, with national interest projects still being able to weigh against local plans.
Lee Kilgour, principal designate, Aston University Engineering Academy, set out the role his institution plays. As the first such technical college, with a £17million new build, the challenge was recruiting like-minded young people seeking a career in engineering.
With that in mind he highlighted concerns that a career in engineering is very misunderstood by parents being confused with shop-floor manufacturing careers.
Asked what role the private sector has in this, Mr Kilgour said that his organisation is sponsored by a range of engineering companies that help to plan schemes of learning over four years from 14 to 19. This allows National Grid, for example, to establish a long term education programme that sets young people up for a career in energy, alongside other engineering sectors that the academy works with.
Companies, he said, were coming to them because they can see recruitment problems ahead and so want to play their part in developing more young people able to readily join the sector.
Robert Stevenson, partner at Berrymans Lace Mawyer LLP, then looked at procurement as a key issue and the need to avoid judging projects simplistically. This means that procurement is more complex than if it focused only on price.
In regards to complexity, he suggested that equity and justice for those involved in procurement is a worthy complexity to have. Twenty years ago, he said, there was no capacity for companies that lost a procurement process to test that they were treated fairly. That made for a simpler system but not necessarily a better one.
Asked if there were more disputes coming through now, he said there was a fairly narrow window for taking action, and courts were dealing with cases fairly well.
Following a question from the floor, Lee Kilgour stressed that while university was important, other pathways into the industry were also important. His institution, he said, would be running a national pilot for apprenticeships that would see fifteen young people start in that process. He hoped this would expand to 45 over time, and this would depend on finding employers willing and able to take on those apprentices.
Author: Editor Gavin Pearson (firstname.lastname@example.org or 0207 202 0255)