With the days getting longer and the recent announcements about easing of COVID-19 restrictions, it is fitting that we celebrate National Careers Week 2021 with a renewed sense of hope - the theme of last year’s NCW - which took place just a few short weeks before life changed for us all last March.
It is also a great opportunity for us at EKFB to reflect upon how our workforce has been impacted on in these past twelve months, and look ahead at what lies ahead in 2021 as our project grows.
Once-in-a-lifetime projects like ours are always significant, but now they are vital in leading the country’s economic and labour market recovery in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic. At EKFB, we are committed to leaving a legacy of having improved people’s lives through the employment, training and career opportunities we provide, and ensuring that we and our supply chains are diverse and inclusive organisations that both understand and take the actions needed to make us more representative in terms of gender, ethnicity and disability and reduce barriers to work for those outside the labour market.
The HS2 project is unique and requires a different approach. But to do different and deliver our skills legacy commitment, we need to be different and we need to think differently about how we attract, develop and retain talent. In the last twelve months, we have grown our workforce significantly while many businesses and sectors were furloughing staff or making redundancies, and are we are proud that we have been able to fill around 500 jobs in that time. We have also provided free-of-charge construction training to over 200 people through our CITB-funded Training Hub to help new entrants start careers in the industry.
Importantly through this, we have learned that career planning isn’t just for those at the start of their working lives, but that it’s an ongoing process with many people, through choice or circumstance, embarking on second, third or even encore careers. A number of our recruits or trainees have come from backgrounds and sectors that we would not typically recruit from, again a sign of a very open labour market, but also an illustration of how a differing approach to recruitment can yield different results. As a result, our workforce has been enriched by people starting new careers with us, bring fresh and innovative thinking from other industries and checking conventional ways of working.
We also start 2021 fully focused on our early careers activities including the recruitment of apprentices, graduates, the provision of work experience and placement students, as well as our engagement with schools and other education providers. We have launched our Starting Blocks Community within EKFB, a place for new entrants and trainees in our industry to meet peers, plan CPD opportunities and be part of mentoring programmes.
We continue to build our network of local stakeholders to promote our job and career opportunities, and we are actively working with our subcontractors and labour providers who will deliver significant numbers of job and training opportunities across 2021 helping our wider workforce to be #ExceptionalTogether and leave the skills legacy we are committed to.
Skills, Employment and Education Manager