On the up: What a new decade means for the UK roofers

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As the roofing sector faces up to a brand-new decade, it’s safe to say that 2019 – and the years leading up to it – will be viewed as a challenging and, at times, unpredictable period for the industry. But, as we look ahead to the 2020s, Richard Kendrick, marketing manager at SIG Roofing, suggests the sector has much to be optimistic about.

After several years of political and economic uncertainty, the results of December’s General Election brought some much-needed transparency to the UK’s direction of travel over the next decade.

Among it’s election promises, the Conservative Party has pledged to scale back the austerity measures in place since 2010 and have committed to the UK leaving the EU by the end of 2020.

For the UK’s construction industry, this newfound clarity will serve as a source of cautious optimism. At the heart of the Conservative manifesto is a pledge to build a further one million new homes by 2025 (more than 200,000 per year); signalling some significant opportunities for all elements of the construction sector, including roofers.

In fashion?
For contractors, it’s imperative to stay on top of the latest and emerging trends and technological advancements, ensuring they stay up to date with the innovations that could give them that all important edge ahead over their competitors.

For example, we have seen an increase in demand for liquid applications, such as glass reinforced plastic (GRP); a trend we expect to continue throughout 2020. Another steadily growing segment for SIG Roofing has been ethylene propylene diene monomer (EPDM) materials, and we anticipate that will increase further still as more roofers switch on to its flexibility and weatherability.

Another key driver behind the rising popularity of these applications is the growing number of homeowners who are opting to stay-put and improve their current property, rather than sell-up and move on. From kitchen extensions to garage conversions, ‘fixer-uppers’ are proving ever-more popular for homeowners; good news for these product lines and signifying a lessening of demand for hot works solutions.

However, that’s not to say that reinforced bitumen membranes (RBMs) won’t remain a vital element of the market. In projects such as small-scale commercial re-roofing jobs, contractors are likely to continue favouring bitumen membranes; a preference we’re likely to see replicated among smaller roofing contractors.

But what do these shifting trends mean for the industry’s bottom line? Taking a look at the most recent financial forecasts for 2020, the sector’s worth is projected to grow to £1.35 billion across the year, with a further increase to £1.37 billion in 2021. In total, that heralds an uplift of 4% since 2012 – a sure sign of the industry’s ongoing recovery post-global financial crash.

Talking talent
Even a cursory glance at the construction industry press across 2019 would reveal that one of the most pressing concerns for the sector is a widening skills gap. At last count, 22% of the construction sector’s current workforce was over 50, with a further 15% in their 60s. So, with upwards of 40% of industry personnel heading towards retirement throughout this decade, it is absolutely vital that everything is being done to attract new talent.

Initiatives such as RoofCERT, the National Federation Of Roofing Contractors (NFRC)-managed and Construction Industry Training Board (CITB)-backed accreditation scheme, are hugely important for harnessing emerging talent from across the sector, and go a long way in addressing the outdated or incorrect misconceptions about the roofing industry that are sometimes held by the public.

We’re proud supporters of RoofCERT and believe backing such schemes will play a vital role in bridging the skills gap. However, for any scheme or initiative to be truly successful, it will need buy-in and collaboration at all levels of the roofing industry. Recognising our role at the heart of the roofing sector’s supply chain, we are committed to utilising our unique position to develop the talent of tomorrow and proactively tackle the skills shortage.

2020 vision
There is clearly a lot to be positive about in the new decade. While there will undoubtedly be challenges on the road ahead, those committed to embracing innovation, investing in training and increasing industry standards will, ultimately, be best placed to take advantage of the abundant market opportunities, showcasing the adaptability and resolve for which the sector is rightly recognised.