18th August Journal Column

By Catriona Lingwood, Chief Executive of Constructing Excellence in the North East


I have voiced my opinion numerous times on the need for more opportunities for young people and for better training standards for those beginning their career in construction. The whole industry must attract more people and bring in more apprentices to help address the skills shortage.

 Earlier this year, another North East company, MGL Group joined some of the top UK construction companies by becoming a member of the 5% Club – a scheme promoting the employment of apprentices in the industry.  Balfour Beatty, Morgan Sindall and Laing O’Rourke have already committed to apprentices making up to and beyond 5% of their total workforce.  

The 5% Club is focused on creating the drive behind the recruitment of apprentices and graduates into the workforce. It was founded as a means of investing in the next generation of skills – something the industry needs to do consistently to reduce the chance of future skills shortages. The aim of the campaign is to tackle both the chronic skills shortage and youth unemployment in Britain and help the country remain at the forefront of innovation.  Members are asked to make a public declaration to support the achievement of 5% of their overall UK headcount being on a formalised apprentice, sponsored student and/or graduate programme and achieve this within five years. It also asks members to publicly report their progress in their Annual Report.

 Earlier this year, the MGL Group also launched MGL Group Training Services, a company committed to providing construction related training. It’s this type of commitment we need to help boost youth employment and end the skills shortage and I’m proud that it’s come from the North East.

 It’s so positive to see so many companies pledging their commitment to apprentices. For such a long time, apprenticeships carried a very unjust stigma as an easy alternative to the academic route.  In fact, an apprenticeship is a structured programme of training and development, approved by government. At level two, an apprenticeship is worth five GCSEs and at level three it’s worth two A Levels. There are also Degree Apprenticeships Programmes, with Northumbria University set to start three this September. The industry now has the skills and resources to train and educate those who have taken the apprenticeship route and this can be seen at all levels across the industry.

 Apprenticeships give young people hands-on experience and the opportunity to gain qualifications whilst learning skills and gaining industry knowledge. With GCSE results day happening next week (24 August) now is the perfect time to show young people that we are investing in them. They are the future labour market. They will dictate how successful we are. Therefore, the better opportunities we create for them now, the better the future will be for them and us.

 For more information on Constructing Excellence in the North East, please contact chief executive, Catriona Lingwood, on 0191 500 7880 or email catriona@cene.org.uk.