Have you ever logged on to graduatetalentpool.direct.gov.uk?
No, thought not. But you should. It offers a solution to a serious problem: how to avoid losing those 36,000 people who graduated with a construction-related degree last summer, and still haven’t found a job. When you consider that the cost to the public purse of training these people comes to something like £650m, you’d think that government and industry would be desperate to protect the investment. Well, there is a good way of doing that: an intern system. This allows graduates to gain up to nine months of work experience without losing their jobseeker’s benefits (at least, for the first 13 weeks). Meanwhile, employers, who pay the intern their expenses, can decide whether to offer permanent jobs after getting to know all about them.
The government website mentioned above offers a space where employers can advertise internships for free, but companies can be forgiven for not knowing that: the Department for Business’ attempts to market the idea to construction has been so woeful that one wonders whether it actually wants it to succeed. There are one or two internships for architects on it, and a few property management type roles, and, er, that’s about it. Luckily, Stephen Gee, the managing partner in QS John Rowan & Partners, is launching a campaign to highlight the opportunity that employers are missing. On his reckoning if every firm in the industry made up just 2% of their workforce from interns in 2010, this would be enough to give each unemployed graduate a three-month placement. He is urging employers to sign up to the Pledge (thepledge.org.uk) and Building is right behind him.
Of course, companies must avoid abusing the scheme. And, if their interns are doing productive work, then they should be paid a wage – even if it’s not the full whack. Some firms may worry that offering a kind of job at less than the going rate leaves them open to charges of exploitation (especially if they’re architects). Nobody is advocating that – but we need to explore every possible way to get graduates onto the first rung of the ladder. And what’s the alternative? If we suffer another lost generation, within a few years firms will be offering each other’s staff their own snow leopard if they consent to accept a job. The struggle to recruit dominated any conversation with senior QSs until recently. Those days may seem a long time ago, but they really aren’t. Let’s make sure we don’t have to endure them again.
Denise Chevin, editor
Alan cherry, 1933-2010
Overshadowing everything else this week has been the death of Alan Cherry, one of the great pioneers of housebuilding in this country. Alan died after a characteristically spirited six-month fight with cancer, and his passing is a great loss.
Ten years after leaving school at 15, he founded Countryside Properties, and in the process made himself a multimillionaire. But it is not just for this that he’ll be remembered. In an industry notorious for building, selling and moving on without a backward glance, Alan was committed to making communities. This was exemplified not just by the Stirling prize won by his Accordia development in Cambridge – an unprecedented accolade – but by the Greenwich Millennium Village, where he was brave enough to take a neglected and poisoned stump of land and help turn it into something special. Then there was his work on Richard Rogers’ Urban Taskforce in the nineties, which constructed the intellectual framework for Labour’s regeneration policy. Through it all, Alan was a true gentleman in an industry containing some pretty hard-boiled characters. He was in every sense a rare breed.