Construction conference looks East (of England) for growth


The East of England is set to become one of the highest-performing construction regions in the country in the next five years, a conference of more than 30 teachers and advisers in Cambridgeshire has been told.

At the conference in Alconbury Weald in Huntingdon held yesterday (July 8) - organised by the CITB (Construction Industry Training Board), Huntingdonshire District Council and Urban&Civic - delegates heard that the construction industry will drive economic growth in the region, creating exciting and diverse career options, apprenticeships and employment opportunities for young people.

Projects such as the Alconbury Weald Enterprise Zone, along with an expansion in private housing and other similar projects, would result in the need for an additional 25,750 construction workers and see the region become the third-highest performing region in England.

Lesley Wright, Construction Careers Adviser at CITB, helped to co-ordinate the one-day event. She said, “There is a shortage of good-quality applicants applying to the industry. That is why it is important that CITB and the construction industry engage in working and supporting young people, parents, schools and colleges to inform them about the wide range of career opportunities, what the industry is looking for and how to apply.”

Organisations taking part in the conference included Alconbury Weald, the National Skills Academy for Construction, HASP (Huntingdon Academies Secondary Schools Partnerships), Huntingdonshire District Council, the Royal Academy of Engineering and education business partnership organisation Beacon East. The teachers and advisors were given information to inform and guide young people on future employment and career options.

Two prominent international construction companies recruiting in the area attended the conference – Laing O’Rourke, which has one of its Select plant hire depots based in St. Neots, Cambridgeshire, and Kier Homes of Tempsford, Bedfordshire. Both companies have had few applicants for their vacancies and said there was a need to reach out to more young people and their advisors to get the message across about the job and career opportunities the sector offered.

The companies brought two current apprentices to the conference to share their stories and insights about their careers in construction.

Daniel Ellmers, a Plant Mechanic with Laing O'Rourke, described the interesting elements involved in his apprenticeship in the hope that delegates would understand more about the company and the role played by a Plant Mechanic, which is a particularly difficult apprenticeship to recruit for.

Simon Holland, a carpentry apprentice with Kier Homes, was awarded Apprentice of the Year by the UK Contractors Group (UKCG) due to his enthusiasm, technical ability and drive. Simon, 22, from Peterborough, Cambridgeshire, who self-funded his studies, said, “Since starting my apprenticeship I’ve learnt a range of practical hands on skills as well as the theory side whilst studying at college in the evenings.

“It was brilliant to be recognised for my hard work when I was awarded Apprentice of the Year and it’s an honour to have been invited to speak about my apprenticeship within the construction industry.”

Rebecca Britton, from Urban&Civic, the owners and developers of the Alconbury Weald development, said, "We know we have about 20 years of construction work on this site to transform the former airfield into a hi-tech Enterprise Campus, deliver 5,000 homes and all of the facilities, roads and utilities to support that. We will also be using future-proofed low-carbon approaches and materials, ‎which means we need forward-looking companies to work with, with up-to-date skills and training.
“Through being a National Skills Academy for Construction we have committed to working with construction companies to drive local recruitment, up-skilling of local unemployed people into construction opportunities ‎and working with schools to promote construction careers to young people. With the development including an Enterprise Zone targeting manufacturing, engineering, and research and development, the opportunities to collaborate with schools across the STEM curriculum are huge, and this event will be the start of taking that forward with local schools."


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