West Midlands Minister Ian Austin has launched the West Midlands Construction Taskforce plan which will target support for the construction sector in the region.

The plan, which is being co-ordinated by a host of organisations, is designed to map and monitor ongoing activity and support for the construction industry sector in the region while identifying and instigating initiatives to support and develop the industry through the current economic downturn.

The organisations involved in the initiative include the West Midlands Centre for Constructing Excellence (WMCCE) in conjunction with Advantage West Midlands, Business Voice WM, RICS, RIBA, Learning & Skills Council, Construction Skills, Business Link, Homes and Communities Agency and WM Developers Alliance.

Mr Austin said: “This government has brought forward massive extra investment to get the economy moving and save jobs in the construction trade.

“This action plan is the construction industry in the West Midlands showing that it can pull together and help one another get through the downturn.”

Speaking at the new Birmingham Library site, where Carillion recently began work, the minister continued: “This is good news for the construction industry in the West Midlands and I applaud the emphasis being placed on green technologies and enhancing skills.

“The region needs people to be well trained and skilled in green technologies, such as retrofitting the existing housing stock, if we are to be ready and well placed to take advantage of the upturn when it comes.”

David Bucknall, chairman of WMCCE, said there were still significant challenges ahead for the construction industry.

He said: “This taskforce has been set up to make a difference. We have a clear plan that we are all committed to, but identifying the approach is just the start – now it’s about delivering meaningful and measurable support.

“We cannot forget the extent to which the construction sector has been affected by the recession or the fact that businesses are still facing extremely challenging conditions.”

Since the West Midlands Construction taskforce was established earlier this year it has launched a number of initiatives including making support and training available through a new micro business support programme run jointly by Business Link and WMCCE in conjunction with Birmingham City Council which is due to be rolled out in the new year.

The pilot scheme is designed to give small business owners practical help with issues around running their firms such as how to survive and thrive in difficult trading conditions, health and safety and changes in building regulations. There has also been a focussed effort to identify and promote emerging business opportunities around future ‘green’ technologies, for example associated with the retrofit of housing and other buildings. Given the likely future significance of these opportunities, the regional minister recently announced the formation of a high level regional low carbon group with a remit to explore these opportunities including those in the built environment.

Stephen Gray, head of clusters at Advantage West Midlands, added: “This Action Plan is unique to the West Midlands and has distilled down all the priority areas for taking the region’s construction sector forward.

“From securing funding right through to ensuring we have the right people in the region to deliver to the highest standards, this plan isn’t just about surviving the recession.

“It’s about ensuring the sector is in the best possible position to benefit when the upturn comes.”