On Thursday 8th March 2018, we celebrated International Women’s Day. Social Media was a hive of activity promoting positive messages for gender equality across the world.

Within our industry it is clear to see there is a higher ratio of male to female and it emphasises the need for days like International Women’s Day to raise our awareness. Only 14% of construction professionals are female and we make up 13% of the industry as a whole. But as a woman, relatively new to the industry, what does the lack of diversity really mean to people like me?

I took the time on Thursday evening to reflect on my career and how I’ve found being in the minority.

Firstly, I think it’s fantastic we are bringing the concerns of the industry to the forefront of people’s minds. It’s improving perceptions and increasing awareness of the changes we need to progress. We’re hopefully making the industry feel more accessible to people who would have previously not considered a career in the Built Environment.

From my experience in the industry, it has been nothing but positive. Maybe I am one of the lucky ones? Or maybe it’s because people have been aware of the discrimination for some time and my generation are the beginning of the change. I’d personally like to think the latter to be correct.

We recently had a Generation 4 Change (G4C) committee meeting where we discussed an issue brought to our attention on equality and discrimination. We pride ourselves on being a diverse committee with a 50:50 male female split. When this issue was raised with the committee we were shocked; we aren’t diverse out of a set selection procedure, but rather because we are conscious that diversity leads to greater innovation as ‘out of the box’ ideas are heard.

I feel very fortunate to have some inspiring and influential female and male role models in my career who are constantly pushing me to be the best I can be and I would like to think that the opportunities I have been given are based on my hard work and determination regardless of gender. I hope the changes I have been involved with in the industry are positive and will benefit anyone who can relate, not a specific group of individuals.

There is still a long way to go before we are a truly diverse industry which is wider than gender discrimination, but we can promote the positive changes already achieved to prove we are moving forward.

I hope that my perception doesn’t change, I hope that I will continue my career feeling equal to my peers and I hope I make others feel this way too. I hope my account isn’t an exception and that other young professionals in the Built Environment also feel valued as individuals rather than held back by a label.

G4C are debating how we can create a new image for construction to attract more diverse talent into the industry on 24 May at Bouncing back: a new narrative for construction https://www.eventbrite.com/e/bouncing-back-a-new-narrative-for-construction-tickets-43750783772

Eve Wilson, G4C Co-Chair North East

16/03/2018 – Open Doors Week

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

As you read this, final preparations are being put to Open Doors events across the country. The event, which takes place next week (Monday 19 March – Saturday 24 March), allows people to discover how buildings and structures are constructed and find out about the range of skills and professions needed both on site and in offices.

The event welcomes everyone from civil engineers, bricklayers, front of house sales managers and future architects, to visitors of all ages and skill sets. It’s the perfect opportunity to be inspired by the growing industry and see how a career in construction could benefit you. This year will see over 270 sites open to the public, 3 of which are happening right on our doorstep, in the North East.

Kier Group Plc are opening doors to Newcastle Laboratory Science Central, a 5-story concrete frame building with external concrete panels and glazing, internally consisting of office and laboratory space. The project forms part of Newcastle’s Science Central Scheme. It will be the perfect opportunity to see everything from dry lining to external glazing and drainage to metal work.

Galliford Try are giving you the chance to see behind the scenes of the £200m Stephenson Quarter. North East Futures University Technical College (UTC) is a new school for 14-19-year olds opening in September this year. The UTC will specialise in careers in Health Science and IT. The project currently has various trades working on the project at this point, so there will be the chance to see Brickwork, Steel, Roofing, Partitions and M&E.

Willmott Dixon are opening doors to the Northern Centre for Emerging Technologies. The project comprises of the refurbishment of an office block and new build two storey extension to accommodate offices and testing facilities for businesses of emerging technology specialising in virtual and augmented reality.

Opening these particular sites not only demystifies the sometimes frustrating construction process for the general public, it also excites them about what our industry can achieve and proves that the North East can proudly take its place in the national construction race.

Events like this are the perfect opportunity for those contemplating a career in the industry and it means we can show off exactly what we have to offer. Last year’s event showed that 83% of attendees would consider a career in the industry based on what they saw on their visit – proving events like have real value. I think by bringing construction to life in this way, people get a chance to see first-hand what it’s like to work in the industry and see something that we already know – what a fantastic career construction can be.

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.

09/03/2018 – National Apprenticeship Week


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

As I write this, businesses up and down the country are celebrating National Apprenticeship Week (5-9 March) – a week for raising awareness and celebrating Apprenticeships and how rewarding they can be.

Apprenticeships give young people hands-on experience and the opportunity to gain qualifications whilst learning skills and gaining industry knowledge. They are a great combination of on- and off-site learning and experience, guided by tutors or mentors.

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.

I have voiced my opinion a number of times on the need for more opportunities for young people and for better training standards for those beginning their career in construction. Which is why I love weeks like this, where the whole industry pulls together to celebrate apprentices and works towards getting more apprentices into the industry. I love nothing more than celebrating the young people in our industry and love seeing the entries fly in each year for the Apprentice of the Year category in our Generation for Change (G4C) awards.

For decades the Construction Industry Training Board (CITB) Levy has existed for our industry to help fund people training at work, including the costs of employing apprenticeships in the trades. However, in April last year, a new government Apprenticeships Levy was introduced for all sectors. This is designed to cover apprentice training fees and is open to all apprenticeship courses, including higher level courses. As a result, companies have a number of options to ensure they can recruit and train apprentices to suit their staffing needs.

A career in construction can be seriously rewarding to both the employee and the employer, according to the latest research by the Federation of Master Builders (FMB) apprentices in the industry will go on to earn thousands of pounds more than many of their university-educated equivalents. Because the industry is in the midst of a skills shortage 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 to be anywhere near reaching the targets set.

It’s great to see that over the last few years, more and more UK construction companies have joined 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. You can’t tell me that’s an industry not wanting to support apprentices?

 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.

02/03/2018 – GDPR Update


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

The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) will take effect on 25 May 2018 and reform our domestic law on how UK businesses collect and process personal data. The new regulation is set to change the industry, impacting everything from design models to supply chain databases. The date has been on our radar for months now, but are we prepared for the major changes that are coming?

The GDPR will make it simpler to withdraw (or refuse) consent for the use of personal data, allow people to ask for their personal data held by companies to be erased and update and strengthen data protection law. Personal data is defined as any information relating to an identified or identifiable natural person, including data about people in their work lives as well as their personal lives, so it would include their work contact details.

In the industry, we deal with a lot of personal data. Project data can include details of the individuals forming part of project teams. Individual worker personal data may be recorded on site access cards, CCTV footage or wearable technology. Organisations store data on employees, customers, suppliers and anyone they network with, this might include sensitive personal data relating to accidents or health issues. Currently, all this data can be stored, reviewed, used and even shared with other interested parties, but that’s all about to change!

According to the new GDPR, personal data must be:
• Processed lawfully, fairly and in a transparent manner
• Collected for specific, explicit and legitimate purposes (and not used for anything else)
• Adequate, relevant and limited to what is necessary
• Accurate – every reasonable step must be taken to rectify inaccurate data without delay
• Kept in a form that permits identification for no longer than is necessary
• Kept secure.

The potential penalties for breaching GDPR are fines of 4% of global turnover or €20,000,000 (whichever is the greater) and those who are affected may also be able to bring a claim for compensation (and there is no fixed upper limit on what their level of compensation may be) – so they’re certainly breaches you can’t afford to be making!
It should have always been, but data protection now needs to be at the heart of decision-making within organisations, and compliance with GDPR will need to be supported by evidence: policies, procedures, technical measures, training. You need to be able to provide an answer to how data is protected by your business. Going forward, it will impact tenders for public sector work, so it’s important you have the evidence required.
If you’re still unsure on the steps you need to be taking, CENE are holding an event with Muckle LLP on 14 March. Jill Dovey, Associate Solicitor for Muckle LLP will be providing a brief overview of the GDPR and the key new requirements, as well as discussing practical ways to approach GDPR compliance.

If you are unsure of your data rights and would like further information, please contact Amy Holmes on 0191 500 7880 or amy@cene.org.uk to register your interest in this briefing.

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