Hardly a day goes by without seeing another headline about HS2’s much talked-of impact on Birmingham.
I certainly share in the sense of anticipation, with the media spotlight firmly focused on the Curzon Street hub redevelopment and the benefits that will bring to east side and Digbeth areas of Birmingham. We should also remember it’s not just about the headline grabbing schemes and consider the wider impacts of major developments in the Midlands.
In fact, within our region some of the most exciting flagship projects are happening further afield. Last year, we began work on the Sandwell Aquatics Centre in Smethwick, a £73million scheme which will see the construction of a 50m swimming pool, a 25m diving pool and 1,000 permanent spectator seats.
It’s a huge, technical project and one which looks set to transform Sandwell, as the council sets out its multi-million-pound vision to put the Black Country on the map for its world-class facilities and create a lasting legacy for generations.
Equally, as we look wider across the Midlands region, we are seeing an equally transformative impact from our recently completed HQ building for The Access Group at the Loughborough University Science and Enterprise Park (LUSEP).
As well as bringing high skilled jobs to the area and reinforcing the area as an education, business and innovation hub, with Leicestershire County Council as the developer and landlord, the project will provide £1.6m of much needed funds every year that will go straight into frontline services such as highways and caring for the most vulnerable in society.
Building for the people
At the heart of all of these developments is people. Local people are the ones building these projects, and they will be the ones using them for years to come. It’s our job as constructors to ensure that we’re engaging local people and local businesses including social enterprises and charities – every step of the way.
Investment is about more than just high-profile infrastructure, it’s about investing in social infrastructure too. Upskilling the local workforce the young in particular has never been more important. The need to shore up the labour market is top of the priorities list for everyone and training and development programmes are one of the best ways we, as constructors, can help.
A great example of this is the £58m Nottingham College City Hub that Wates completed at the end of 2020. While it has regenerated a district of the city centre, it is also a project that will deliver a legacy for generations of young people from across Nottingham and the wider area both through the education space it offers, and the learning opportunities created throughout its build. Additionally, the inclusion of a business hub within the new facilities brings closer links between education, future skills and life beyond full and part time education.
On our Sandwell project we’ve already created 99 job opportunities and one apprenticeship, alongside delivering 22 NVQ opportunities and 129 short courses. We can look at similar numbers across every project we undertake.
Bringing through apprentices, initiating careers fairs and working with ex offenders or the long-term unemployed is a vital aspect of both the added value and the social value that makes a real impact for the communities we serve.
We are currently experiencing a period of extreme challenge for many people and there is no doubt that the construction industry can have an incredibly powerful part to play in supporting people today as well as laying the foundations for a more prosperous future.
This isn’t going to be a quick fix to the issues that we are facing today but we are completely committed to playing a meaningful part in creating a better tomorrow.