The outlook for the building services industry in Wales is extremely promising, according to the president of the Building Engineering Services Association (BESA).
Malcolm Thomson told an industry audience at the annual BESA Wales dinner that Wales was "in a good place" despite the "cloud of uncertainty swirling around the wider economy as we prepare for yet another election and the dreaded Brexit talks".
He pointed to major infrastructure projects such as the Swansea Bay tidal lagoon and an "extremely ambitious" plan to build 20,000 new affordable homes, backed by a £1.5 billion finance package supported by the Welsh government.
Mr Thomson said he had detected a real determination in Wales "to make sure your development plans are not knocked off course by events elsewhere". However, he warned that major projects would put pressure on the pool of available skilled labour and urged the country to match investment in projects and planning with a significant investment in bringing new people and new skills into the industry.
According to recent research carried out by BESA Training, the building engineering sector in Wales has enjoyed significant growth in manpower demand over the last 10 years. The rate of growth is expected to slow a little over the next five years, but demand for mechanical trades will continue to rise by up to 11% between now and 2020 and, for electricians, by approximately 9%.
Mr Thomson said this made it extremely important for the industry to "grow its own talent" and make full use of the targeted training courses and funding streams now emerging for apprenticeships.
"When it comes to funding for training, we must use it or lose it – that's the deal," he said. "Funding is coming through and it is up to us, as employers, to make sure that money stays in our sector and helps finance the pipeline of talent that will be needed to deliver all these exciting new projects."
The Association's head of Wales Catherine Griffith-Williams echoed the president's comments and said this was a great opportunity for BESA members.
"MEP and building engineering apprenticeships are an ideal way of supplying the competent workforce we will need for the exciting wave of investment coming into Wales over the next couple of years," she said.
Pictured: Welsh Tenner and star of the 'Go Compare' adverts Wynne Evans, with BESA head of Wales Catherine Griffith-Williams, BESA president Malcolm Thomson and Wales region chairman Owain Dobson.