Midway through National Apprenticeship Week we are reminded of the huge value of apprenticeships as a vocational pathway to employment. But they are only one element in a truly sustainable approach to tackling unemployment, with current statistics suggesting there are nearly 1.5m unemployed adults in the UK (ONS, September 2017).
Clare Gill discusses how the training and employment landscape is evolving and the comprehensive efforts through which Wates aims to help people get into work.
Creating local employment and training opportunities for those facing barriers to work remains a huge part of Wates sustainability agenda. It is something we integrate from the outset of every project we deliver, setting ambitious targets with our clients and in doing so, ensuring our presence has a tangible impact on local communities.
But the way in which we realise our commitment is evolving. In Yorkshire, we approach the creation of employment and training opportunities thematically – reaching out to specific groups of people in order to address specific local challenges and support specific aspirations of our clients. For example, our delivery of the £57m Quarry Hill campus for Leeds City College is seeing us engage with young people, mostly outside mainstream education. In addition, we are working with social enterprises like The Skill Mill to provide opportunities and EN:ABLE Futures to create apprenticeship positions.
Meanwhile, with our construction of the National Horizons Centre, a new £22.3m research, teaching and training facility for Teeside University in Darlington, we are aiming to reach out to minority groups and those that are underrepresented in the workforce such as women in construction and BAME (Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic) employees.
Most recently, I have begun working with Engage Leeds as part of our delivery of 7 & 8 Wellington Place for MEPC to help prevent homelessness through the creation of employment opportunities for people whose housing is vulnerable or threatened.
However, creating jobs and indeed apprenticeships only goes so far in a truly sustainable approach to tackling unemployment. At Wates we also work hard to reach young people who are not in education, employment or training (NEETs). This involves ongoing and regular engagement with schools and colleges, encouraging and inspiring young people and helping them to develop life skills and awareness of the world of work. We do this through activities such as health and safety talks, mentoring, trades taster events, Dragons-Den style workshops and teambuilding activities that require students to build giant tetrahedrons, facilitating an understanding of science and maths in the process.
We also work with HM Prison Service to deliver practical construction skills training. This not only lowers unemployment but helps reduce the number of people who reoffend upon leaving prison.
Furthermore, encouraging our existing workforce to use their knowledge and experience to mentor more junior team members and those throughout our supply chain also contributes to the campaign to tackle unemployment. I frequently draw on our trainees to help me in my efforts to develop training and employment opportunities and this helps to foster an all-embracing culture of employability.
By integrating these principles into our projects and throughout Wates as whole, we not only deliver more sustainable buildings but we also shape the communities around them. We will not achieve 100% employment in the UK alone but we will certainly play our part in contributing to the creation of healthy local economies and happy neighbourhoods.
Clare Gill is Community Investment Advisor for Wates Construction in Yorkshire.