Having recently been successful in gaining further funding from the CITB for 200 free training places we asked the brains behind the scheme, Michael Sedgwick, to talk about our activities and plans to bolster skills and employment opportunities:
When I was asked to write this piece, I began to reflect on what we had hoped and planned as a new JV back in 2016, bidding for work on HS2.
Our stated aims were to improve lives, communities and the construction industry by:
Providing sustained employment opportunities
Reducing barriers to work
Upskilling and/or retraining
Working with young people and diverse groups
Raising the profile of a career in transport, engineering and construction
Engaging positively in the education and career lifecycles
Fostering and developing talent
Focusing on apprenticeships, worklessness and supporting people in education
Now more than ever these aims ring true. It’s no secret that the construction and engineering sector is facing a skills gap, and our industry has struggled to attract new talent for decades. Add to that, our country will be facing some difficult economic times post COVID-19. This is the time to be investing in our people, attracting new people to our industry and being innovative to address the skills gaps we are facing.
We can offer local people and local businesses a wealth of employment and investment opportunities that will flow from our construction activities. There are huge benefits for people in the communities where we work, and we need to make sure we are signposting them to these jobs and investment opportunities.
In 2018 we received funding from the CITB’s Construction Skills Fund to train new entrants to the construction industry. Our goal was to train 400 new people and support them with job opportunities linked to the HS2 project. We targeted local training companies close to the route to demonstrate a return on investment to local businesses. Since then we have trained more than 400 people new to our industry and invested over £300k in local training and support of businesses.
For me, a real highlight was the work we’ve been doing with HMP Springhill prison near Calvert, to offer people that all-important second chance, and reduce re-offending. HMP Springhill is an open prison where inmates can be released daily to work. We had a few hoops to jump through before we could allow inmates access to our training, to ensure the absolute safety and integrity of the scheme. Looking at the results now though makes it all worthwhile: We trained nearly 30 inmates, all of whom received Plant Operator accreditations and can now operate plant on site. Every person we trained has gone into steady employment – and we are hoping to see some of them on our machines once we are fully operational.
Because of the success of this training, the CITB offered us an extension to train a further 200 people during 2020/2021. Our plans remain to target people local to our works and use local training businesses to support with delivery.
Keep an eye out for more for more details about our skills activities and as ever we’re keen for people to get involved, so please