21st July Journal Column

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

The industry’s skills shortage has always been something that has concerned me, so I’m always happy to hear of initiatives or training aimed at upskilling employees or training new recruits with the skills the industry needs.

This year, through the Structured and Flexible Funds, Construction Industry Training Board (CITB) has £20 million to invest in projects to; reduce skills gaps and shortages, increase access to the right training, increase the appeal of working in the industry and increase the added value per employee.

Within that, £3 million is available through the CITB Skills and Training Fund (part of the Flexible Fund), introduced to help small and micro employers and specialist federations with their skills and training needs. The funds, available to levy registered companies, vary in value depending on the number of PAYE employees;

  • £5,000 for up to 49 staff
  • £7,500 for up to 74 staff
  • £10,000 for up to 99 staff

Up to £10,000 a year to pay for training for your employees if you are in-scope to CITB – that sounds like an opportunity you shouldn’t miss!

Since January 2016, 60 North East employers have had successful Skills and Training Fund applications, totalling over £277,500 with approximately 700 beneficiaries; 17 micro businesses, 31 SMEs and 4 large employers have all benefitted. We are the second most successful region for claims within this fund and are known for our commitment to training – an accolade we should all be proud of.

To increase application numbers, CITB have tried to make the Skills and Training Fund as simple to access. The form filling process has been reduced, there are some eligibility boxes to tick, a couple of sentences about why the training is required and some quotes from training organisations to evidence the amount of funding being requested – it really couldn’t be easier.

Employers can claim once per 12-month period. The first £5,000 is paid up front and the remainder paid upon completion. The fund covers most skills and training interventions that will help your business, not just construction specific training and skills. However, you can only apply once a year so it’s worth undergoing a complete Skills and Training Review for your workforce to maximise the value of your application.

McCarrick Construction from Chester le Street has experienced a trio of benefits since applying for the Skills and Training Fund. Applying for approximately £900 to upskill their plumber has enabled the firm to carry out gas installations for their housing projects rather than outsourcing this work. This;

·         will save the company £500 a year;

  • ensures McCarrick Construction has a wider range of expertise to offer clients;
  • has led to the company training an apprentice under the guidance of an experienced plumber.

Applications for this funding are open now until 20 November 2017. For more information, contact Mark David, Assistant Fund Manager, CITB on funding@citb.co.uk. More information is also available at www.citb.co.uk/funding.

14th July Journal Column

By Kate Lloyd, Partnership Manager, Constructing Excellence in the North East

For women, proving their worth in a male dominated industry has been a long and gruelling task. Although we have come a long way in terms of equality, it’s clear there is still a lot of work to be done.

Earlier this month, Loughborough University held a debate on whether women get a good deal in construction. Eight ex-students who now work in the industry took part, seven of which have only worked in the industry for under five years. Does this give a true representation of the thoughts of all women in the industry?

I spoke to one female Engineer who explained some of the casual sexism she has faced. As a Site Engineer she is frequently asked to take minute meetings, undertake document control or do admin jobs not within her job description. At first, she accepted these roles to fit in or be seen to be keen to help out, but overtime she realised whilst these are necessary tasks, by accepting them she was potentially changing the way her colleagues saw her and keeping her away from her on-site role, ultimately affecting her promotion potential.

Those involved in the debate felt that quotas for women is not the way forward and I agree. It’s about treating everyone as a ‘person’ regardless of gender. Yes, women have struggled in the industry, but favouring women causes more of an issue for the company and the woman herself. It’s in the industry’s best interest to recruit and promote based on talent.

As with most ‘women in construction’ debates, discussions included the lack of female toilets on site. It’s a basic human right that we have the facilities we need but do we need individual male/female toilets? Unisex toilets with all facilities should be enough. If the issue is that site toilets are unsanitary, we must address that. Unisex toilets are becoming more popular in all industries, whether they be a cost or space saving initiative, they also support other challenges e.g. the transgender agenda.

As an industry, we are moving forward from the equality agenda to talk about Fairness, Inclusion and Respect (FIR) across the industry, between people, professions and companies. In the Autumn, we plan to bring practical support through the FIR Toolkit, free to construction companies and suppliers via the Supply Chain School. More information is available at; https://www.supplychainschool.co.uk/default/fairness-inclusion-and-respect 

I must say, in our region, I’ve found that attitudes towards women in construction have changed significantly and are more positive than ever before. We may still have work to do but there is an appetite to improve but we still need your help.

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.

G4C Newsletter July 2017

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June 2017 G4C Newsletter

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7th July Journal Column

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

Health and Safety has always been one of the main focuses in the industry, but there’s often debates over which is more important. There are many physical risks that come with working in the industry, so there has always been more of a focus on safety, but we must remember that the health of our workforce and mental health is just as important and isn’t something that can be forgotten.

Some shocking statistics are available for the sector.

  • Statistics from the Office of National Statistics (ONS) show that the risk of suicide among low-skilled labourers and those working in the industry, is 3.7 times higher than the male national average.
  • Every year 400 construction workers commit suicide, that’s more than one a day.
  • Stress, depression or anxiety accounts for a fifth of all work-related illness, and that’s just the reported figure. Many people don’t want this detailed on their employment records for fear it could impact their future careers.

The impression of our industry is that it is dirty and dangerous, but we can work towards changing that image by making workplaces safer, happier and healthier. It’s important that those at the top of the supply chain or in managerial roles understand the importance of talking about mental health and that attitude is filtered down to employees and smaller companies that are often harder to reach.

Working Well Together, an industry/Health and Safety Executive initiative, are holding an event in Durham, aimed at managers and supervisors. The event will highlight the most important health issues specific to the industry, with a presentation dedicated to mental health – this is exactly the type of event that we need and we need even more of them.  I’m under no impression that things will change overnight, but every small step forward is a step in the right direction.

Here, at Constructing Excellence, we do lots to help improve the health, safety and wellbeing of workers in the industry. This year we supported The Lighthouse Construction Industry Charity at our Constructing Excellence North East Awards. The charity provides financial and emotional support to the construction community and their families who have suffered an injury or long-term illness or just need some extra support.

The charity fund and manage a 24/7 Construction Industry Helpline which is the first point of contact for those who need free and confidential support services. Companies that sign up to the Company Supporters Programme will receive a Helpline Pack containing wallet sized contact cards for the helpline and posters to help direct employees and contractors towards extra support. 

The charity receives no public funding and relies on the generosity of those within in the industry, which is why we’re more than happy to be supporting them again at our charity golf day on September 21. 

If anything you have read strikes a chord either for yourself or your workforce, there is help available; please use it. You don’t have to be suicidal to call Samaritans, they’re there to help. Anyone can call for free any time from any phone on 116 123 and the number will not appear on your phone bill. Alternatively, call the Construction Industry Helpline on 0345 605 1956 or get practical online advice and training for your workforce at www.matesinmind.org.

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.

30th June Journal Column

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

Across the country, our roads require a lot of maintenance and over time, they deteriorate and potholes appear. There are also more than 8 million tons of plastic dumped into our oceans each year and it is estimated that 50% of plastic is used just once and thrown away. These might sound like two separate statements, but they could be the answer to each other’s problems. 

According to research only a third of plastic packaging used in consumer products is recycled each year, with almost two-thirds sent to landfill or incinerated, that’s a lot of plastic that could be useful if used elsewhere. Recycled plastic products can be turned into a number of things from plastic furniture, sleeping bags, bumpers for cars, building products and now roads. Cumbria is the first UK county to trial ‘plastic roads’. The new product works by creating roads made up of recycled plastic – plastic that would otherwise be thrown into landfill or the ocean.

Scotland-based company, MacRebur, have developed a product to create stronger, more durable roads. Generally, roads are built of 90 percent rock, sand, and limestone, and 10 percent bitumen. The plastic roads are made with a standard asphalt mix which is made from locally-sourced waste plastic, a material MacRebur call MR6. The MR6 gets mixed with other road-making materials to hold the street together, replacing the need for bitumen.

The plastic road mix is up to 60% stronger and lasts 10 times longer than standard asphalt, increasing a road’s lifespan and reducing the likelihood of potholes in the future, as well as repairing roads that are already damaged. They also lessen tyre resistance, which could help improve fuel economy for vehicles using the road. 

Plastic roads are now used at a truck service station in Cumbria as well as Carlisle Airport. The roads being used in an airport is true testament to how durable they really are. If a plane can safely land on a plastic road, then there’s no reason they can’t be used elsewhere.

MacRebur started out with a goal of getting one or two councils on board, now they’re looking at taking plastic roads around the UK, Europe and eventually worldwide. There are plenty of people who are going to say your ideas aren’t going to work, especially if they’re unconventional, but this is a perfect example of how start-up businesses with a simple idea could be revolutionary to the industry.

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.

23rd June Journal Column

By Richard Waterhouse, Chief Executive of NBS

On Wednesday (21 June) the NBS team launched their new tool, the NBS Online Viewer powered by Autodesk Forge at Autodesk University in London.

Since becoming the first UK Autodesk Solutions Associate last year, NBS and Autodesk have been working together to develop the next generation of information and knowledge management integration.  This latest development is all about taking Building Information Modelling (BIM) into the cloud. By doing this, NBS will be providing a solution which provides and maintains critical data within the construction workflow allowing customers to provide more value to their clients.

The NBS Online Viewer makes it quick and easy for everyone working on a project to view a 3D model and associated specification without the need for additional software or a licence. With just a web browser and a free NBS ID, projects can be brought to life with linked manufacturer and specification data. The NBS Online Viewer will provide huge efficiency gains for designers, manufacturers, contractors and building owners/operators alike, by allowing everyone to be informed on a project regardless of technology barriers.

The tool works by combining either the Revit or IFC (Industry Foundation Classes) model with NBS Create in the cloud. It’s as simple as clicking the ‘model’ button and uploading this with the associated specification. Once uploaded, the model can be navigated within the web browser.

The specification viewer provides approximate quantities calculated from the model and presents linked clauses together with hyperlinks to external resources such as manufacturer websites and published documents. By adding email addresses, others can be invited to view the model and specification.

NBS has developed plug-ins for BIM design software for a number of years, allowing customers to better coordinate their models and specifications. The NBS Online Viewer development is in direct response to customers needing to be able to share and view coordinated design and specification information. Being able to view and interrogate this information using a 3D model will allow for earlier informed decision making on projects, whilst providing the right content and information to the right people at the right time.

For all those working on BIM projects, I encourage you all to give it a trial run. It is currently in public beta phase, but will be open for the next few months and from there NBS will determine how best to build the first release to market.

To access the NBS Online Viewer and to give feedback visit, www.theNBS.com/viewer

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.

16th June Journal Column

By Sarah Wilson, partner in the construction department at commercial law firm Watson Burton

Since it was introduced, the New Engineering Contract (NEC) has been widely used across the industry, becoming the contract of choice for Government and public-sector work, as well as being used extensively on other projects.

The NEC is a formalised system created by the Institution of Civil Engineers that guides the drafting of documents on civil engineering and construction projects for the purpose of obtaining tenders, awarding and administering contracts.

The contract was revolutionary when it was first introduced, requiring the parties to act in a “spirit of mutual trust and co-operation”.  It is not the type of contract that can be signed and then put aside to gather dust.  Instead, it is very much a management contract, setting out in clear language the procedures that need to be followed throughout the works. The aim is that no nasty surprises lie in wait for the developer and that payment is prompt and fair for the contractor. The latest version, NEC3 is now endorsed by governments and the industry worldwide and has a track record for delivering projects on time and on budget.

On June 22, the NEC will introduce NEC4, which has been created as a response to feedback from the industry. The new version focuses heavily on collaboration and generates opportunities for the sharing of cost savings.

The NEC has introduced two new contracts into its suite of contracts, one of which is the Alliance Contract, where all parties will sign up to one single contract and work (hopefully) as one genuine team, with the potential for shared cost savings acting as an incentive.

Focussing on collaborative working will encourage all parties to work together in achieving objectives, sharing both risks and benefits, which along with cost saving and fair payment will benefit the customer as well as the developer and contractor.  I’m hoping this will act as a catalyst for the industry in the post Brexit period.

 

Another welcomed change is introduction of Dispute Avoidance Boards. The industry has a reputation for disputes which, to an extent, this is not wholly deserved.  My experience is most people want to do a good job at a fair price. The reality is that construction is very different to manufacturing – there are far more uncertainties and on occasions, disputes arise. The Board helps parties find a solution to disputes. It also provides recommendations, but it is up to the parties whether they accept them or not. In my opinion, the involvement of a third party is very helpful in resolving disputes at an early stage.

Parties are free to continue using old versions of the NEC contract, but generally, the changes to NEC4 are a good balance, benefitting both parties. It will be interesting to see the full extent of changes when the contract is released and see how the industry reacts to using it, after all, the proof of the pudding is in the eating!

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.

9th June Journal Column

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

Ever since the introduction of the Public Services (Social Value) Act 2012, the procurement landscape has been changing with public sector bodies now requiring contractors to deliver ‘added value’ as part of contracts.

Social value is about having regard for the social, economic and environmental well-being of communities in the procurement process, it’s not just about the lowest cost any more. The public sector has always had the option to consider the additional benefits to a community through procurement, but the introduction of the Act finally made it a requirement, to ensure that authorities get best value from public spending by also benefiting the community.

The industry provides huge social value opportunities for local communities, the local economy and the environment. Opportunities could be anything from; providing training or work experience opportunities for unemployed people and employing apprentices to using local suppliers or recycled materials and engaging with local schools or community groups – it really could be anything that will be beneficial to the local area or community. Employment, skills and living environment make up three of the seven indices of multiple deprivation as defined by the UK Government back in 2015. As an industry, we have the partnerships and the skillset to make such a difference in these key areas.

I’m a huge advocate of getting young people into the industry, so projects that help get young people to the career ladder, whether it’s through employment opportunities or giving them the training and skills to seek jobs in the future, really appeal to me. But, that’s what it’s all about, thinking of what the industry or area needs and submitting project tenders that will do everything they can to help us get there.

Constructing Excellence in the North East are holding an event next Thursday (15 June) to discuss the requirements under the Social Value Act, how it’s affecting procurement and how the construction sector can help the public sector meet its aims and objectives of creating additional value. Guest speakers include; Darush Dodds, Head of Corporate Social Responsibility and Added Value at Esh Group, Michelle Brennan, Project Five Consulting, who specialises in Social Value and works across the sector developing positive approaches towards a more sustainable built environment and Karen McCarthy, Regional Manager, Career Ready – a charity that works to increase the employability of students through engagements with businesses and industry professionals. Karen works with a number of schools and colleges across the North East and is keen to link them all with employers to help prepare young people for the world of work.

For more information or to register your interest please contact Amy Holmes on 0191 500 7880 or amy@cene.org.uk.

2nd June Journal Column

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

Last week we were lucky enough to have some of the nicest weather we’ve had so far, this year, with temperatures reaching 25C last Friday. While most of us who were keen to get outside, and envied workers who were free from the confines of an office, it’s worth remembering that the hot weather, as nice as it is, poses certain risks to outdoor workers, and like any other aspect of health and safety, must be managed correctly.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) advises employers to:

  • include sun protection advice in routine health and safety training, informing workers that a tan is not healthy
  • encourage workers to keep covered up during the summer months — especially around midday
  • encourage workers to use sunscreen
  • encourage workers to take their breaks in the shade, if possible
  • consider scheduling work to minimise exposure
  • keep workers informed about the dangers of sun exposure
  • encourage workers to check their skin regularly for unusual spots or moles that change and to seek prompt medical advice promptly if concerned.

For employees, the HSE highlights its sun protection six-point code as follows, advising workers to:

  • keep their tops on since clothing forms a barrier to the sun’s harmful rays
  • wear hats with brims or flaps to cover the back of necks and ears
  • stay in the shade, whenever possible, but especially at lunchtime
  • use a high factor sunscreen of at least factor SPF 15 on exposed skin
  • drink plenty of water to avoid dehydration
  • check their skin regularly for unusual spots or moles which may have changed

Too much sunlight is harmful to your skin. It can cause skin damage including sunburn, blistering and skin ageing and in the long term can lead to an increased risk of skin cancer. Skin cancer is one of the most common forms of cancer in the UK with over 50,000 new cases every year. Construction workers are six times as likely to develop skin cancer, so something as simple as applying sunscreen, could make all the difference.

The suggestions from the HSE are definitely a good place to start, but it’s important to just pay attention to how you’re feeling in the heat, if you don’t feel right, hydrate and have a rest in the shade. You know your body best so don’t push yourself too far, the project might take a little longer to get finished, but the important thing is that the project is finished by a fit and healthy workforce.  With effective health and safety planning, outdoor workers will enjoy a pleasant, healthy and safe summer – unless we get a typical British summer, then we’ll have nothing to worry about.

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.