EXCLUSIVE! Opportunity to drive industry forward, says CLC deputy co-chair

CLC deputy co-chair Richard Robinson, pictured, champions change as the Construction Leadership Council publishes new strategy.

The UK’s construction sector has an “incredible opportunity” to push forward change, according to Construction Leadership Council deputy co-chair Richard Robinson.

Speaking exclusively to Infrastructure Intelligence, the comments come as the CLC announced its new strategy and priorities for the next three years

Since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, the CLC has become increasingly visible as a leading voice for the sector, working in partnership with government. Supporting companies through the crisis and responding to key short-term challenges, it has also set a plan for transformational change. 

Robinson, CEO UK and Europe at Atkins, took up the post as the CLC’s new deputy co-chair in June alongside Mace Group chairman and CEO Mark Reynolds as the CLC’s new industry co-chair.

The CLC now plans to focus its efforts on four long-term ambitions for transformational change - net zero and biodiversity, next generation delivery, building safety and people and skills. 

It is also recognizing more immediate pressures that are challenging the industry and will work on mitigating impacts of inflation, ensuring confidence in the forward pipeline to invest, managing delivery risks and focusing on business sustainability and insolvency.

Following the period of post-Covid recovery, Robinson says the construction sector now has huge opportunities for change, development and growth. 

“The CLC did great work during Covid,” he said. “It brought the industry together, working with key associations and industry bodies. I think the CLC found a momentum and togetherness for the industry that we’d not found before. 

“We focused on keeping construction going, keeping sites open and keeping people in work.

“Both Mark and I are keen to build on that and use this momentum that the CLC has. 

“Our four key strategic priorities are pointing CLC’s work into the longer term.

“But it could be suggested that the current situation around issues such as inflation and energy costs is as big a challenge as Covid was for the industry – which is why we have short-term priorities as well. 

“We will continue to be right on the front foot for the whole of the industry.”

The CLC will shortly be appointing a new board to provide strategic direction to the council and ensure CLC, government and industry are set up for delivery.

The CLC Task Force, which drove forward the CLC’s work in response to Covid-19, will be formalised as the CLC Council, acting as the engine room of the CLC’s day-to-day work. 

In the coming weeks, the CLC will be recruiting industry sponsors and young ambassadors to sit within its new structure. It hopes this new organisation will be in place by Christmas.

Industry sponsors will enable the CLC to increase its engagement with senior business leaders across the sector while young ambassadors, professionals at an earlier stage in their careers, will act as a voice for their peers across the sector, supporting the CLC’s succession planning.

The issue of people and skills is a key focus for CLC. Problems with training and recruitment in the industry are well documented, with the ECITB recently launching a new strategy, pledging more than £87m to support workforce training and tackle labour shortages and skills gaps over the next three years.

“We need to be clear on how the industry tackles skills needs collectively going forward,” said Robinson. 

“We are looking to define, evidence and model our future skills needs, and that will allow us to have a more informed conversation about the range of initiatives that are needed to meet the demand in the industry.”

And bringing industry sponsors and young ambassadors to the CLC structure will also play a key role. 

“In a couple of months we hope to launch an open recruitment process for both industry sponsors and young ambassadors, both will be massively important to us. Young ambassadors, people at the start of their careers, will bring fresh thinking. 

“Industry sponsors are the people responsible for running big parts of the industry or who are involved in key influential things. It will be so important for us to have that really tight connection between government, trade associations and leadership in industry.”

He said it was also important for CLC to continue working with other trade associations and bodies. 

“If you’ve got something you’re passionate about and your trade association or business wants to put time and effort into moving it forward then it’s an open door to the CLC and for people to help.

“We will take industry issues, concerns and priorities and where we can flag those to government, we will advocate strongly on behalf of industry where there is enough alignment to do so.”

As the CLC launches its new priorities, where does it see the sector at the end of the next three years?

“There is a lot to do in terms of next generation delivery. My personal hope is that we use the point we’re at to transform productivity in the industry through the application of digital technology.

“That’s certainly not just big companies, I want us to connect the whole industry together. Our challenge with productivity is always our very long and fragmented supply chain and being able to address this digitally is an incredible opportunity for us.”

And on taking up the post at CLC, Robinson says it’s the opportunities that now present themselves to the industry that are the biggest attraction.

“Our overarching message is to take the CLC into a new era for delivery and that was the big attraction for me. I could see the opportunity, I could see that industry was at a point with how it was working together that we could transform the industry along those four priority lines. 

“What an opportunity we’ve got right now. Notwithstanding the flip side of that is we’ve got a lot of challenges.

“Our industry has a massive impact on the economy overall, on jobs, on prosperity, on productivity and we are at a time when there’s a lot of positive momentum – there are some significant headwinds now, but challenges can be turned into opportunity.”

Further information on the new strategy can be found at the CLC website.

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