Julie White, the managing director of diamond drilling and concrete sawing company D-Drill, said this week’s GDP figures had revealed modest growth of 0.9 per cent in the sector.
But White, who is vice-president of the International Association of Concrete Drillers and Sawers (IACDS) and is on the committee of the National Association of Women in Construction, thinks the industry will face another 12 months of stagnation.
She said: “It is well documented that construction has been one of the hardest hit sectors during the recession and we are still struggling to get a sustained recovery underway.
“At D-Drill, we lost 40 per cent of our turnover almost overnight when the recession hit and it’s been extremely hard work to grow again.
“As a company, we have achieved growth year on year for the past five years but the market is still very, very tough. We’ve diversified by introducing new divisions to the business such as concrete scanning and cracking and seating of concrete roads and slabs, and we’ve also strengthened our reputation in our more traditional areas of work too.
“It is good for confidence that the GDP figures have revealed growth this week but I am convinced it will be another 12 months before real growth in construction starts to take shape.
“The Government has talked a great deal about infrastructure projects but much of that will not start for another year at least. That is when, I believe, our industry might genuinely be able to say it is growing again.
“There is still a shortage of overall confidence and that means investment decisions are being put off by some and that is stalling growth. As an SME too, we are also finding it is really difficult to get paid because, again, companies are holding on to their cash for as long as they physically can because they are watching the pennies.
“From their point of view, that is understandable but it puts real pressure on SMEs like mine.
“So, ultimately, confidence is going to play a significant part in achieving sustained growth in construction and, also, the long-awaited investment in infrastructure.
“The situation is nowhere near as difficult as it was five or six years ago but it feels as if the market has gone static and I believe it will be another year before we start moving again – it’s a real rollercoaster ride.
“Once that happens, we will have the issue of whether there are enough skilled people out there to help the industry grow. In 2012 alone, 60,000 construction workers lost their jobs and many of them will have gone on to do other things or into retirement so we will need to replace those skills – that could be the next big issue to face the industry.”
Following appearances on Radio 4, Radio 5Live and Sky News on the day of the GDP figures, Julie followed that up with an appearance on Declan Curry’s ‘On The Money’ and ‘Show Me The Money’ programmes on Sunday. On The Money can be heard here