Houses of Parliament investment brings skills step-change

Wates Construction’s delivery of the House of Lords’ Millbank House in Westminster and the Palace of Westminster’s Life Safety Systems programme have been hailed during National Apprenticeship Week (6-10 March) as exemplar projects in addressing the industry’s skills and diversity…

Wates Construction’s delivery of the House of Lords’ Millbank House in Westminster and the Palace of Westminster’s Life Safety Systems programme have been hailed during National Apprenticeship Week (6-10 March) as exemplar projects in addressing the industry’s skills and diversity agendas.

The two projects, where Wates began Construction last year, have welcomed to site two female London-based apprentices, both of whom are looking forward to becoming part of the next generation workforce.

Poppy Mills (17) and Isabel Armah (19) are undertaking apprenticeships in site management and construction management respectively, spending four days with their project teams and one day per week at college.

Isabel, who is working towards an NVQ level 3 and BTEC level 3 in construction, comments: “The best thing about an apprenticeship is being able to work on similar things to the management team; I have accountability and that really helps me grow and develop, much more than I would in a classroom.”

Isabel is undertaking an apprenticeship in construction management as part of the Wates project team at Millbank House at Great College Street, where the contractor is extensively renovating the early 20th century six-storey building.

She continues: “Before joining Wates in September last year, I was heading down an engineering route but having an opportunity to move into construction has made me realise how closely linked the two industries are. I’m so proud of how quickly I am learning and I have my sights set on being a project manager in the future.”

Alongside Isabel, Poppy’s apprenticeship is being undertaken as part of Wates’ work on behalf of the Palace of Westminster to upgrade the historic building’s automatic fire detection, alarm and emergency lighting systems.

Commenting on her work on site, Poppy said: “Being on site is really varied; I check health and safety and deal with supply chain orders and all of this needs a lot of confidence.

“There are probably young women that don’t think construction is an industry for them but to them I would say, you can’t say it’s not right unless you try it. I am so proud of what I have achieved in such a short space of time. I’m trusted with tasks and it’s so amazing to be working on such a high profile building as the Palace of Westminster.”

Poppy and Isabel are two of the first four apprentices to become part of the Wates’ project teams. The pair secured their positions through the Construction Industry Training Board’s (CITB) Evolve* programme in association with the Southern Construction Framework, through which both projects were procured.

Parliament has a well-established, sustainable procurement policy which encourages best practice amongst its contractors, incorporating equality, diversity and inclusion throughout the process and engaging apprentices on large-scale projects. Both the House of Commons and House of Lords run their own apprenticeship schemes, which have seen young people undertake apprenticeships combining working in a wide range of departments across Parliament while studying for NVQ Level 3 qualifications.”

 

Veronica Daly, Director of Parliamentary Commercial Services

 

Phil Shortman, Managing Director of Wates Construction London, said:

“Career opportunities in construction are many and varied and Wates is extremely keen to spread this message and help to challenge the industry’s misunderstood reputation for having a lack of diversity and equality. Investing in apprenticeships is not new to Wates but our work with the CITB is enabling us to look at ways to encourage even more people into the industry.

“First and foremost, this will help us in building a skilled workforce for the future, but it also gives us the opportunity to enrich the professional lives of those who may not have otherwise considered construction as their chosen career path.”

Wates recruits apprentices from level 2 to 6. For more information please visit our careers page here.

*Operated by the CITB, Evolve is a not-for-profit organisation, which operates in London and connects contractors with prospective apprenticeship candidates to help address the skills agenda.