he dull repetition of the word ‘unprecedented’ has seen each of us reaching for our thesaurus over recent months. This unparalleled public health crisis has challenged many of our assumptions regarding business-as-usual, and perhaps even our growth ambitions, but as business leaders we are quickly adapting our plans to compete in the evolving environment.
In such a landscape it could be a daunting challenge, but we are fortunate at Stantec to have a great client base as well as incredibly resilient and adaptable staff so we are moving forward with cautious optimism. As well as the urgent requirement to upgrade health and care estates, the need for long-term investable places has not changed and the supporting infrastructure has continued to be rolled out all year. Putting climate change adaptation and resilience at the heart of our recovery plans will create exciting new design challenges for all of us.
The immediate requirement to support our clients and deliver on projects has taken up the majority of all our time. We are an agile industry and working from home with excellent collaboration software has made de-mobilising from our offices relatively easy. However, interpreting the changing social distancing policies for site safety, the application of furlough, and considering the future workplace have been issues we have all had to grapple with. Like many, I have found ACE’s close involvement with government, breadth of contacts across the industry, and agility in producing guidance a terrific source of insight. Through the Navigating COVID-19 webinars, members have benefited from ACE translating complex policy issues into practical actions – vital for any busy leader looking for answers and short on time.
I haven’t been the only one to appreciate this work – the record-breaking visitor numbers to the ACE website, webinar sign-ups and guidance downloads are testament to how valued this support has been. Through the regular SME Forum and large consultancy group virtual meetings, ACE has created safe spaces for business leaders to share their personal insights into the unique circumstances we’re facing with peers.
I know from my regular catch-ups with Hannah that she has been in daily contact across Government and the civil service since the crisis began in March, promoting our members and the wider industry. Thanks in large part to her efforts, ACE influence brought about crucial changes to the emergency bank loan scheme, created a top-20 priority project list for the IPA pipeline, and just this week has been pushing Government on vital issues such as the extension of planning permissions. When we speak with one voice as an industry we are listened to.
As a proactive member of the Construction Leadership Council (CLC), ACE is now shaping our industry response ensuring we are in the best position to act as a catalyst for the wider economic recovery that our country needs. There are nine million people on furlough, and whilst we hope they will all be back at work soon, we have to play our part in stimulating the recovery and get Britain working again. ACE is coordinating the activity of the CLC’s local, social and commercial working group and working with other business groups to pull together ideas, recommendations and proposals to help shape a recovery by the industry and for the industry. Thanks to ACE support, further ideas on skills, talent, value-based procurement and sustainable business are being developed within the CLC.
The crisis has brought into sharp relief the value of “speaking as one” to Government and speaking openly to each other. Our recovery journey has only just begun, and there is a long road ahead, but if we travel it together, we will get there.
Paul Reilly is managing director – infrastructure & buildings, Stantec UK and chair of ACE 2020. This article originally appeared in the July/August edition of Infrastructure Intelligence.