Many companies are attracting new workers into the industry by offering training on site.
We look at the initiative on one project by social housing contractor United House
Social housebuilder United House is taking a proactive stance on recruiting new entrants to construction. On eight of its long-term social housing programmes it is venturing into the local community to recruit and train people who had never previously considered construction. Subcontractors are also required to join in the venture and the recruits work towards a qualification such as an NVQ, which they can then use to get other work in construction in the future. Unsuprisingly, most of the people on United House's schemes are young, with more than half their entrants being 18 or 19 years old.
"It has proved to be a very good way of building training into the projects," says United House's Mark De'Angeli. "It is mainly on-site training, with some day-release at college. The details vary to suit the scheme and the local area. We took a big risk but it's going very well." One of their biggest schemes is based in Portsmouth. The project is worth £11m and aims to refurbish 350 local authority homes over four years. To achieve this, United House have partnered with Portsmouth council – the scheme is one of the UK's first-ever local authority strategic relationships. They are recruiting and training local people in order to ensure they have sufficient trained staff for the duration of the scheme. The council has even loaned an empty house for trainees to practice in.
The reason the company can now do this, De'Angeli says, is because local labour agencies have changed radically in recent years. "Historically, local labour agencies would have had a list of people who they just wanted to shunt off their books," he explains. "Companies got annoyed with this because we are not social workers – it's not our job to help with the unemployable. That sounds harsh but there's a big difference between someone who happens not to have a job, and someone who just can't hold a job down. On our big projects we can at last work with local labour organisations, most of whom have got immeasurably better, and will find us people with the right motivations." One such person is Dan Keeling, 30, who was recruited onto the Portsmouth training scheme. He used to be a freelance sound engineer in various pubs and bars. The work was irregular and unpredictable, and he had been considering a change of career for a while when he stumbled across the United House advert in the Job Centre. He hadn't considered a career in construction before. "I really believe it was the right place at the right time. I went to an open day at a local college where I found out more. I then attended an interview and got through a selection test." Dan is enthusiastic about the new opportunities his training offers. "It has been great," he says. "The course has given me a whole new career and a wealth of experience. I specialise in fitting central heating and water heaters and I am now self-employed. I never thought I would be doing this." Dan's training has turned his life around: "I now have long-term prospects, the money is amazing and I have regular work. I really enjoy being self-employed too. It can be stressful but I do get a lot of job satisfaction."
“On our big projects we can at last work with local firms, most of whom have got immeasurably better, and will find us people with the right motivations”
Mark De’Angeli, United House