23/02/2018 – Press for Progress, Women in Construction

 

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

Now, more than ever, there’s a strong call-to-action to press forward and ensure women are better represented in the industry.

Construction News is campaigning for women to seek and be given the chance to obtain leadership roles in this industry, with the launch of the Inspire Me campaign. The campaign follows the Women’s Business Council’s aims:

  • Accelerate the pace of change
  • Increase and support the executive pipeline
  • Enable women to be able to make informed choices
  • Harness the experience and talent of women
  • Promote equality

For me, the campaign couldn’t have come at a better time. There is a clear move towards embracing inclusion and demolishing stereotypes. The industry needs people from different personal and professional backgrounds, bringing new and innovative ideas.  With the skills shortage at a high, we’re in no position to be looking at anything other than level of skill and potential when recruiting workers.

Here at CENE, we’re holding an event on International Women’s Day, Press for Progress, which will look at three key issues that need to be addressed to enable the construction industry to move towards a higher representation of women;

Recruitment – How can we ensure that recruitment practices are fair and that all applicants have equal access to opportunities and are treated equally during the recruitment process?

Retention – The numbers of women joining the industry has increased over the last 10+ years, however the percentage of women employed overall in the sector has remained stagnant at around 12-14%. How can we retain a diverse workforce?

Progression – All employees should have equal opportunity to progress within the industry in accordance with their ability and desire. How can this be achieved?

At the event we will hear from Sarah Kellerman, Kellerman Consultants, the first female ICE NE Chair, who will speak about her 30-year career and how the industry really does have to “up its game” and commit to the integration of women. Hays Recruitment will present Hays Diversity and Inclusion – 2018 Report and we will hear case studies from organisations committing to change their working practices and culture to encourage inclusion.

While a lot of work has already been done, and attitudes have shifted, there’s still room for improvement. In our region I’ve found that attitudes towards women in construction are more positive than ever, which is why the low statistics (14% of construction professionals and 2% of construction apprentices are women) still shock me. Clearly, there’s a lot of work required to encourage women to consider construction as a career, but we must also address our own working practices and those of our companies, to ensure women and people from under-represented groups can flourish. Inclusive working environments bring a wealth of benefits to everyone, including our predominantly white, male workforce. We all want to work somewhere where we feel comfortable, safe and valued, so let’s work together to create these places.

The Press for Progress event is on Thursday 8 March at the Crowne Plaza Hotel, Newcastle. To register for this event, please contact Amy at amy@cene.org.uk or call 0191 500 7880.

16/2/18 – Construction Alliance NorthEast (CAN)

 

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

Last week, North East England Chamber of Commerce (NEECC) chief executive, James Ramsbotham, gave his support to Construction Alliance NorthEast Construction Charter, which calls for a total re-think on public procurement.

Construction Alliance NorthEast (CAN) is a collection of construction and engineering bodies formed to represent the interests of over 500 regional construction and contracting SMEs which rely largely upon successfully tendering for public sector contracts using industry procurement processes. CAN is calling for a re-think on public procurement practice so that regional SMEs get more of an opportunity to tender for this kind of mid-range construction work.

Two years on, CAN’s message is starting to gain traction with several industry bodies as well as regional MPs (ten have already agreed to sign it). They can see that reform of the procurement process is not only necessary for the industry overall but is vital for the region. I know from the high calibre of entries we get in our annual Constructing Excellence Awards that there are many talented companies in the region which are more than capable of building a £5m school extension, for example, but so often this kind of work is given to a national firm, simply because they are on a national framework.

Our role is to support the interests of the entire industry, so it would be wrong of me to take sides, but if a common-sense approach prevailed, there would be no need to use a sledge hammer to crack a nut. It is a great pity that a major contractor like Carillion must fail, before anyone starts to question the effectiveness of the national policies that led to its downfall. James Ramsbotham’s view, that too many public-sector contracts are concentrated in the hands of a small number of large businesses which use their scale to win work, is exactly what seems to have been happening in the case of Carillion.

CAN’s primary message to local authorities and any public-sector procurement organisations is to adopt an ‘intelligent’ approach to procurement and focus more on increasing local contractor participation – ‘hear, hear’ to that.

CAN is asking for contractor selection to be matched to the size of the project being procured, large contracts to large contractors, smaller ones to smaller contracts. It does no harm to reiterate the importance of the construction sector to the regional economy.  Not only does it account for 8.5% of all jobs in the region, the Construction Industry Training Board research tells us that for every £1 spent on a construction project, £2.84 is generated for the local economy, provided that all aspects of the process are undertaken locally. It is clearly in all our interests that as much of this work as possible is carried out by local firms.

James and his team at the NEECC have been huge supporters of ‘buying local’ for many years.  Perhaps now, we should all act on their advice.

For more information, contact Philippa Clothier at Clothier Lacey & Co on 0191 273 9897.

09/02/2018 – Building Equality; LGBT in Construction

 

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

Last week, Stonewall’s top 100 LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender)-inclusive employers index was announced and for the 10th year running, not one construction firm featured.

It was disappointing to hear as I think we’ve came on leaps and bounds in the past 12 months with more contractors setting up their own LGBT networks. Around 500 employees from companies including Balfour Beatty, Carillion, Kier and Laing O’Rourke marched together at London Pride in 2017 under the LGBT network group #BuildingEquality.

Going forward we need to be encouraging the industry to be better represented on the index. LGBT workers exist across all industries and construction is no different. According to research released by Public Health England in 2017, around 2.5% of the UK population openly identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or other, meaning there could be at least 50,000 LGBT+ people working in the industry.

Last week, Construction News published its annual LGBT+ construction survey and the results weren’t as positive as I’d have hoped. It revealed that large proportions of the workforce felt uncomfortable, hindered or ostracised because of their sexuality or gender. Over half (56%) of respondents aren’t comfortable being open about their sexuality or gender. The figure is down on last years (69%) but for me it’s still too high, that’s still more than half of the workforce asked!

It’s common sense that people perform better when they can be themselves. Research has shown that making the workplace more inclusive for LGBT employees brings business benefits including: better job satisfaction and productivity among staff, better staff retention, more choice when recruiting new staff and an overall improved reputation – why wouldn’t you want that for your business?

The sad news is, that homophobia still seems to be an issue in the industry. The survey results found that 59% of respondents had heard ‘gay’ being used as an insult in work and 28% of LGBT+ respondents have had an offensive or inappropriate comment made about their gender or sexuality in the workplace over the past year. Again, down on last year’s results (33%) but it’s still too high for me. Yes, we’re making progress, but it’s very slow progress.

There are so many people working in the industry, it’s understandably going to be difficult, if not impossible, to change’s everyone’s outlook. What we need to do is make sure there are policies in place to prevent homophobic comments being made, and that’s hopefully how we’ll start to turn things around for the industry.

Two-thirds of LGBT+ respondents also believed their sexuality or gender was hindering their career progression, which should not be the case. To be anywhere near reaching the targets set by Construction 2025, we need to be encouraging the entire talent pool and not excluding potential candidates, for any reason. We need diversity in gender, age, ethnicity, values, experience and behaviours.

Maybe we need to show our support in the North East for our LGBT colleagues by joining under the #BuildingEquality banner at Northern Pride 2018 on the 21 July in Newcastle. Let us know if you want to join 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

02/02/2018 – Stop. Make A Change

 

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

Last year, more than 60,000 workers across the infrastructure sector downed tools on sites and in offices to take part in Stop. Make a Change. – an initiative set up to help build a safer industry.

This year Stop. Make a Change. has expanded to cover the whole of the industry. A dedicated two weeks will run from 16-27 April, focussing mostly on mental health and plant safety. The initiative has been developed by an industry working group that includes representatives from some of the biggest companies in the industry, such as; Balfour Beatty, Highways England, Morgan Sindall and Kier

In the past, the industry has failed to address health with the same commitment as it has to safety. One in four people suffer from mental health issues each year, with more than 400,000 days being lost to work related stress, anxiety and depression in the industry alone. A worker in the industry is more likely to die of suicide than they are from a fall from height – such a scary statistic when you consider how dangerous our industry can be! The Office of National Statistics (ONS) show that the risk of suicide among low-skilled labourers and workers in the industry, is 3.7 times higher than the male national average. Given how at-risk industry workers are, an initiative like this couldn’t have come at a better time, we all need to be doing more to raise awareness and ensuring workers get the support they need.

It’s comforting to know that more companies are now offering mental health first aid and making a real effort to reduce mental health issues in the industry, Companies taking part in Stop. Make a Change. are asked to make more commitments by signing up to cross-industry initiatives or having their own programmes inhouse.

The industry relies heavily on the use of mobile plant to support delivery on site, which when used by trained and experienced operators, is safe. But there are still too many occasions of uncontrolled movements of plant leading to tragic accidents on site. Of the 217-people killed in our industry over the last five years around 10 % were hit by moving vehicles, so there’s still plenty of work to be done!

Organisations that commit to the initiative are asked to commit to the two focussed areas – mental health and plant safety.  It is up to each organisation to decide what commitments it will make but they must improve performance in the business and support better outcomes for employees. It’s not that much of an ask when we’re literally talking about a matter of life or death!

Signing up to Stop. Make a Change. is completely free. All development costs have been met by the Civil Engineering Contractors Association with support from the Construction Industry Training Board through its Structured Fund – a truly worthy use of the fund if you ask me.

To find out more about how to get involved in Stop. Make a Change. contact enquiries@ceca.co.uk 

26/01/2018 – Industry Support Required for Carillion’s Displaced Apprentices

 

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

Following the liquidation of Carillion, earlier this month, the Construction Industry Training Board (CITB) is calling on all contractors and house builders to take on former apprentices who are now looking for work.

The CITB and Education and Skills Funding Agency have provided funds to keep courses going in the short term. It has attempted to contact the 1400 apprentices to discuss their future, and hundreds have already attended support events. CITB is also offering every former Carillion apprentice a face-to-face session with an CITB Apprenticeships Officer to find out their individual learning needs to ensure the next steps they take are the right ones.

The apprentices that will soon find themselves out of work, are primarily in bricklaying, carpentry and joinery, which according to the latest Federation of Master Builders (FMB) survey, is exactly what the industry and other housebuilders are lacking. The survey found that 68% of members are struggling to hire bricklayers, 63% carpenters and joiners, 48% reported difficulties hiring plumbers and electricians, 46% plasterers and 30% floorers. Figures are the highest since the FMB began their survey 10 years ago, so the industry is probably in the best position now to ensure the Carillion apprentices aren’t out of work too long – a silver lining if there ever was one.

With skills shortages at an all-time high and the governments ambitious house building target, of building 300,000 homes each year quickly catching up to us, we need to commit to recruiting and training the right people. There may be a skills shortage, but there’s certainly no shortage of work.  The skills and experience of these apprentices are invaluable to the industry and crucial to the delivery of new homes and infrastructure.

We work so hard to encourage young people into the industry and show them alternative routes after school, so it is important that the industry steps up to support these apprentices in their time of need. The construction industry has its fair share of difficult times and unfortunately on this occasion there are many people who will be affected. However, we must remember that the skills knowledge and experience held by Carillion employees and apprentices are of huge value to the sector. I hope we as an industry, can pull together to ensure as many people as possible can be retained.

A hotline has been set up for both former Carillion apprentices, and construction employers who are interested in helping them. You can call 0344 994 4010 or email carillion.apprenticeshipsupport@citb.co.uk to contact CITB’s dedicated support team.

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.

19/01/18 – Preserving Heritage

 

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

Here in the North East we are blessed with a fantastically rich history. Our rural and built environments show evidence of human habitation from centuries ago and the value held in within them goes beyond the obvious. Whilst our historic environments and buildings are undoubtedly fantastic to look at and explore, they contain within them knowledge and evidence of skills from centuries ago. Rebuilding, restoring, maintaining and upgrading sites and buildings of historical importance is an essential element of our industry’s work. We have a responsibility to enable people to enjoy and learn from these environments now and preserve them for future generations.

However, if you stop and think about it, this history is evident in so many ways, from the world-renowned structures like Hadrian’s Wall and Durham Cathedral, to the countless pre-1920’s domestic properties. Our industry must ensure we learn from the past and use appropriate methods and materials to secure their future in the most sustainable way. Preservation and restoration is the ultimate form of recycling. It helps reduce waste and ensures that the buildings work in the way in which they were designed.

The industry has really upped its game in terms of technology over the last few years, but for almost every piece of new tech, there are energy-efficiency lessons to be learned from historical buildings. For example, before air conditioning, structures made do with passive environmental control from cross-ventilation windows to shutters and bricks that helped keep out the sun. The high thermal mass of stone, as seen in most Victorian buildings, retains warmth in winter and cools in summer. When properly renovated or restored, old buildings can use less energy than modern buildings, even those that are ‘sustainable’.

Last year, the project team for the Co-op Development, Newgate Street, Newcastle were won the Preservation and Rejuvenation award at the Constructing Excellence North East Awards. The team rose to the challenge of restoring the iconic building after years of neglect. This category is one that holds a special place in my heart as it focuses on restoring and preserving the history and culture of the North East, and who wouldn’t want that?

This year’s Preservation and Rejuvenation award, sponsored by Watson Burton, is looking for projects that can demonstrate:
• Evidence of research and investigation into replacing, repairing and matching traditional methods and materials encountered with evaluation of alternative options.
• Choice of appropriate procurement that reflects the risks in such work.
• Application of well-considered and sympathetic technical solutions, both traditional and innovative.
• Delivery of customer satisfying quality and enduring outcomes.
• A clear commitment to the development of heritage skills and training opportunities to sustain heritage related works.
We know there are multiple projects which are eligible to enter this year and win or lose, the Constructing Excellence North East Awards are a great way to promote your expertise and knowledge. I anticipate it’s going to be a difficult decision for the judges this year.

The entries for both the CENE and G4C Awards close on Wednesday 28 February at 5pm. If would like to discuss your project or nomination with CENE please contact Leanne McAngus on 0191 500 7880 or email leanne@cene.org.uk

12/01/18 – CENE & G4C Awards 2018

 

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

Here at Constructing Excellence in the North East, we’re committed to working with the industry, its customers and the government to make change happen and deliver prosperity. Each year we also dedicated a lot of time towards celebrating what the industry has already achieved and 2018 will be no different.

Each year, we hold the Constructing Excellence North East Awards, our awards ceremony dedicated to showcasing excellence and rewarding achievement from organisations and projects around the region. We are delighted to say that the awards are now firmly established as one of the highlights of the business year, playing an important role in raising the performance of those involved in delivering the built environment. Over the last 13 years, the awards have grown significantly, with over 500 people celebrating the best of the region’s industry.

This year, our fourteenth CENE Awards will be held on Friday 15 June. As usual, we have various categories, including Integration and Collaborative Working, Sustainability, Health, Safety and Wellbeing, SME of the Year and our new category for 2018, Offsite Project of the Year. We are also delighted to announce our new headline sponsor for the awards, CDM Recruitment and are working with them to ensure this year’s awards are the best yet. Application forms for this years CENE awards can be found here.

For the third year running the Generation4Change (G4C) North East Awards will also be celebrating the outstanding examples of excellence and best practice from those up and coming in the industry.  The awards, which this year are sponsored by Northern Counties Builders Federation, will take place on Friday 27 April. They will celebrate individuals or organisations from seven categories, including Apprentice of the Year, Student of the Year, Trainee of the Year, along with G4C Future Leader (formerly Young Achiever of the Year) and our new one for 2018, Mentor of the Year. Application forms for this years G4C awards can be found here.

G4C is passionate about focusing on young people and showcasing the young talent in the industry. We are looking to celebrate achievements of this young talent and the organisations supporting and shaping the future leaders of our industry. We know that the construction industry in this area is of the highest standard, so let’s prove it!

We’re constantly asking for more from the government or in desperate need of workers, skills and new methods, but it’s just as important to celebrate what the industry has achieved. It’s a gruelling industry, that wouldn’t succeed without the hard work and commitment of its workers. If I could reward each and every one of you, I certainly would.

The entries for both the CENE and G4C Awards close on Wednesday 28 February at 5pm. If would like to discuss your project or nomination with CENE please contact Leanne McAngus on 0191 500 7880 or email leanne@cene.org.uk

05/01/2018 – Moving Into the Digital Age

 

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

Happy New Year to you all – I hope you’ve all had a lovely Christmas break and are raring to get started. I cannot believe it’s 2018 and another new year is ahead of us, but I’m looking forward to seeing what the next 12 months have in store– I think it’s certainly going to be a busy one! While you can never predict exactly what the year ahead holds, from the trends and announcements made in 2017, there are a few things I expect to see.

In the past, we’ve had a reputation for being slow to adapt to the digital age, but over recent years, the smart building tech industry has grown significantly with more companies accepting technology advances and now we don’t really have a choice, as Mark Farmer said, we must ‘modernise or die’. Digital technology will be rife in the next few months, with 3D printing, apps, robots, drones, to name a few, helping us carry out day to day tasks, there will be no escape!

I also expect we’ll see an increased scrutiny on health and safety in the industry. It’s no secret that the industry is known for the number of accidents and the level of danger jobs pose, but with technology advancements and safety mobile apps, there’s no reason companies can’t ensure a safer work environment for staff.

Throughout last year, modular and prefabrication became one of the most popular methods of construction.  By now we should all be aware of offsite construction, but for those of you that aren’t (where have you been?!), offsite construction is a modern way of building that sees the unit being constructed offsite in a factory-controlled environment. The building is then delivered to the site where the ground works and foundations will have been prepared. Mark Farmer’s ‘modernise or die’ report stated that pre-fab housing is the way forward when it comes to producing more affordable homes to regenerate the property market, and I couldn’t agree more.

Off-site construction has many benefits compared to traditional build; it is safer, more efficient and has the potential to greatly minimise on-site waste. With price of materials expected to stay high in 2018, companies need to be thinking of ways to save money or cut costs, and this could be an effective way of doing so. This year, we’ve introduced a new award at our annual Constructing Excellence awards, ‘offsite project of the year’ and I have a feeling we won’t be short of entries. Application forms for this years CENE awards can be found here

We’ve overcome some tough challenges in the past and that only proves to me that this industry can achieve anything! So, let’s get our heads down and have a good year – I have a feeling this could be our year, change is going to come so bring it on 2018, we’re ready for you!

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.

22nd December Journal Column

 

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

It’s that time of year again when everywhere you look there are reviews of the last 12 months and predictions of what we can expect from the year ahead. If I had to summarise what 2017 was like for our industry, I would say three things- progressive, amazing and bloomin’ hard work!

A new year is a natural point in time to stop, assess how things have gone over the past 12 months, look at everything that we’ve achieved and look at what we can do better in the coming year. 2017 marked the beginning of the future of the industry, it was the first year after the fallout of Brexit and the first full year of the BIM level 2 mandate.

Chancellor Philip Hammond made his first Autumn budget since abolishing the Spring statement and within it was plenty of positive news for the industry, which hopefully sets precedent for things to come. House-building and the industry was front and centre of the statement, with many announcements setting out new funding for housebuilding, training and transport. He announced £15.3bn new financial support for house building over the next five years, taking the total to at least £44 billion. By the mid-2020s, it is the government’s aim is to have 300,000 homes being built every year, the highest level of house-building since the 1970s. In the financial year 2016-17 a total of 217,000 homes were built in England, the highest number since the financial crisis, so I’m pretty confident we’ll get there, things are certainly going in the right direction.

As well as the industry, we at Constructing Excellence in the North East (CENE) have had a very eventful year. We’ve had the Constructing Excellence Awards, both Regional and National, which continue to succeed every year. We’ve supported young people by hosting our second Generation 4 Change Awards, celebrating young professionals in the industry and worked closely with schools and colleges to encourage more young people to consider a career in the industry. We were honoured to have Mark Farmer, author of the Modernise or Die report, visit the North East to speak at this year’s Construction Summit. This year alone, Constructing Excellence held over 250 events, with more than 17,000 participants and raised over £26,000 for charity through our annual awards programme.

There are so many other things that I could mention as it’s certainly been another busy year, but I don’t want to keep you away from your festivities for too long! So, there’s just one thing left for me to say, from all of us at Constructing Excellence in the North East, we wish you a very Merry Christmas and a happy and prosperous new year. Let’s see what 2018 has in store for 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.

15th December Journal Column

 

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

We started the week with a yellow weather warning, flight cancellations and school closures, and with the snow and ice expected to stick around, I can’t help but think of those working on sites or outdoors.

Aside from the fact it’s freezing cold, sites can be very dangerous in the bad weather. In the winter, strong winds, cold temperatures, snow and rain have the potential to cause serious hazards for workers in the industry. The unpredictability of the British weather makes it hard to plan, but we’re pretty much guaranteed to have bad weather (it is the UK after all) so there are a few precautions that can be followed to ensure working on site is as safe as possible. The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) advises:

  • Shielding any areas that could be worst hit by the weather.
  • Creating heated break areas where workers can warm up.
  • Scheduling outside work to be carried out in shorter durations, so workers don’t have to face the elements for long periods of time.
  • Wearing the correct gear that is fully insulated to retain body heat.
  • Checking the site for any new hazards that could have been caused by the bad weather.

As with anything, the most important factor to consider, especially in health and safety, is education. Educating employees on the importance of staying safe and how they can go about it, is the most successful way of keeping workers safe on site. Keeping up to date with weather reports when planning projects can also ensure workers don’t spend too long in extreme conditions.

Slips, trips and falls are the most common construction site accidents and although they can happen all year round, icy, wet or slippery surfaces increase the risk. Scaffolding and ladders get very slippery with frost and ice and a fall from a height could be life threatening especially when coupled with freezing temperatures. Also, prolonged exposure to the cold can cause workers to suffer from colds, bronchitis, asthma, painful joints and fatigue. In extreme cases, workers outside for long periods, without the right protection, could even suffer hypothermia, frostbite and chilblains.

In the UK, there is no legal minimum outdoor working temperature, so it is important that everyone understands the hazards associated with the cold weather. Pay attention to how you’re feeling and look out for others around you. You know your body best and although the job might take a little longer to get finished, the most important thing is the health and safety of the workforce. After all, nobody wants to be ill for Christmas, do they?

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.