A year of change and optimism?

February 2, 2024

My optimism is grounded in a recent UK economic briefing I attended, where early signs of recovery were discussed, drawing comparisons with Norman Lamont’s "green shoots" of economic revival. The briefing highlighted a modest yet positive increase in trade confidence across the nations, indicating a gradual improvement in both the tangible and perceived economic landscape.

This modestly positive forecast, despite acknowledging the realistic possibility that higher mortgage rates will become the norm, moving on from their post-2008 financial crisis lows, is expected to stimulate the new build sector. Furthermore, increasing consumer confidence regarding home improvements could open significant opportunities for member companies.

However, I am maintaining a measured optimism, considering the gradual pace of improvement weighed against an array of external factors that could potentially impede or reverse this positive trend.

Moving beyond the broader economic landscape, all four UK nations continue to work toward their agreed low-carbon and sustainability targets. Despite some delays announced late last year, it becomes increasingly imperative for all members to prepare for and capitalise on the emerging business opportunities presented by this inevitable low-carbon transition.

Crucially, all members should consider and prioritise investment in the necessary training and development to tap into this lucrative opportunity. On my side, I continue to lobby government and collaborate with funding bodies to establish renewable technology training grants for our profession, and I am hopeful of a positive outcome soon.

Regarding new entrants to the profession, SNIPEF remains dedicated to working with members and apprentices to enhance the new and soon-to-be-launched Modern Apprenticeship in Plumbing and Heating, placing greater emphasis on renewable technologies.

This year will undoubtedly bring us a General Election, carrying with it numerous promises and offerings to businesses and individuals alike. In preparation, SNIPEF will soon launch its election manifesto, outlining proposals on how MPs and government can better support our profession and the construction sector more broadly.

These proposals include expediting planning processes for new builds, revitalising the retrofit market, and encouraging increased investment in skills and training. I strongly encourage all members to engage with their local prospective parliamentary candidates when the time comes, as this collective endeavour will help shape the future of our profession.

Following the excellent feedback members provided last year, we will soon unveil several new membership initiatives. Your input is invaluable to us, and I am dedicated to nurturing an open dialogue to ensure these initiatives align with the best interests of all members, SNIPEF, and the plumbing and heating profession at large.

Watch this space!

Fiona Hodgson

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