26th February Journal Column

By Siobhan McMahon-Walsh, National Chair of the National Association of Women in Construction (NAWIC)

For women, proving their worth in a male dominated industry has been a long and gruelling task, but we’re now finally at a place where women are equal to men and stereotypes are long gone… or so I thought!

Where we should be, is at a place where women are offered the same opportunities as men, and heads don’t turn when a women is recruited into a senior role. So why was news of a female chair for a construction company classed as headline news last week? People are promoted/hired every day, why must they comment on gender and report it as something out of the ordinary?

Although we have come a long way in terms of recruiting and stereotyping, it’s clear there is still a lot of work to be done.

Data from the Office of National Statistics shows that the construction workforce grew by 1.5 per cent between Q3 and Q4 of 2015. Whilst the increase is good news for the industry as a whole, it’s disappointing to see that women only make up 11.2 per cent of these workers.

While it might feel like we are doing a lot to increase women in construction, there have been numerous campaigns to encourage women into the industry and a lot of work has been carried out regarding recruiting, it’s clearly still not enough.

The proportion of women in construction has fallen for three consecutive quarters and is even lower than it was in 1997, so I can’t help but feel that we’re going backwards rather than forwards!

It’s amazing to see that we aren’t going down without a fight. The National Careers Service in the North East have launched a campaign to challenge gender stereotypes in the work place, and with organisations like the National Association of Women in Construction (NAWIC) working so hard, there’s no reason why we can’t turn things around.

Although I agree that we need to up our game in terms of encouraging more women into the industry, I have to say that, especially in the North East, I’ve personally found that attitudes towards women in construction have changed massively and are more positive than ever before. In the 20+ years that I’ve been in construction a lot has changed, equality may not be quite up to the desired level, but they are certainly a lot better than they used to be!

With NAWIC North East celebrating their 4th successful year of encouraging individuals to pursue, establish and sustain successful careers, International Women’s Day coming up on 8th March and the Women in Construction Awards on 23rd March showcasing women across the industry at every level, there are many opportunities to celebrate and raise awareness of women in construction.

There are people, me included, willing to put the work in to change statistics and challenge gender stereotypes, we’ve progressed so much over the last few years and finally brought construction into the 21st century, there’s no reason we can’t keep on going!

25th February 2016 Newsletter

To view this weeks newsletter which includes information about the CENE 2016 Award Submission date please click here.


19th February Journal Column

Web-LogoBy Catriona Lingwood, Chief Executive of Constructing Excellence in the North East

I’ve always been a big supporter of collaborative working. I understand why some people want to achieve success on their own, but I also don’t see anything wrong with getting a little help along the way. If there’s someone out there to help you, meaning you’ll reach that end goal a little quicker, then why not?

The British Standard (BS) 11000 standard gives you the knowhow to get the most from collaborative working. It helps you build and benefit from partnerships by sharing resources, costs and contacts, as well as improving opportunities.

BS 11000 Collaborative Business Relationships provides an eight stage approach to help organisations work with other organisations more effectively, regardless of size and sector.

The approach involves stages such as awareness, understanding business objectives, an internal assessment to evaluate how your organisation is best positioned to collaborate, finding the right partnership, working out how to reach a mutual and maximum benefit before recognising internal and external changes before disengagement.

The framework enables organisations to apply good practice principles to their own way of working and has wide applications for public, private and not-for-profit organisations on how to manage valuable business relationships within the supply chain.

For those organisations with well-established processes, the framework provides a common language that can help engagement, whilst for those starting out it creates a road map for the journey.  There are simply no limitations to which organisations can benefit from BS 11000.

BSI was the first certification body to be recognised by the Institute of Collaborative Working’s (ICW) BS 11000 Certification Validation scheme. Following on from the success of BS 11000, the standard has now been developed into a new international standard – ISO 11000.

Whilst the International standard principally addresses the management system of an organisation, it also recognises that effective collaboration requires two or more organisations to work together.

ISO 11000 will incorporate the International Organisation for Standardisation (ISO) management structure whilst still using the eight stage model of BS 11000, which is currently under public consultation until 7 March 2016.

The essence of collaborative working is to reduce barriers between those in the construction or project team, thereby improving communications, reducing conflicts and, therefore, improving outcomes.

Last year the winner of the Constructing Excellence in the North East ‘Project of the Year’ award came from a collaborative working project and it was an outstanding example of how partnership collaboration can achieve an end goal.

Branching out to international standard only opens more doors and offers more opportunities to businesses of all sizes in all sectors. It will be interesting to see what the outcome of the public consultation is… I’ll definitely be checking back in with this come March.

18th February 2016 Newsletter

To view this week’s newsletter which includes articles about Esh Construction and Muckle LLP please click here.

G4C North East Announces Shortlist

Generation4Change North East 2016 Awards – Shortlist Announced!

Apprentice of the Year
Sponsored by Atlas Cloud                                   Atlas Cloud NEW JPEG

– Jack Thomas, nominated by Capita employed by Capita Property and Infrastructure
– Connor Newton, nominated and employed by GRADONARCHITECTURE
– Ellie Fraser, nominated and employed by Esh Group
– Sam Stockdale, nominated and employed by GentooTolent
– Adam Burnikell, nominated and employed by GentooTolent
– Ryan Chamberlain, nominated by New College Durham and employed by Beamish Museum
– Ryan Hepple, nominated by New College Durham and employed by Smith & Goodwin Heating Ltd
– Mitchell Galloway, nominated by New College Durham and employed by Newcastle City Council


Student of the Year
Sponsored by Turner & Townsend

– Stephen Rigg, nominated by Teesside University and employed by AECOM
– Dan Hill, nominated by Esh Group and employed by Esh Construction
– Abdulrahman Alcharbati, nominated by Aone+


Trainee of the Year
Sponsored by Elliott Associates                                       
Elliott Associates Logo new

– Brad Seymour, nominated by Esh Group and employed by Esh Construction
– Will McCallum, nominated and employed by Willmott Dixon Construction
– Lee Ritzema, nominated by NCT Skills
– Gemma Chizary, nominated by New College Durham
– Rubie Lee, nominated and employed by Thirteen Group
– Stuart Poulter, nominated and employed by Thirteen Group


New Professional of the Year
Sponsored by Jacksons Law                                  
Jacksons Law Firm

– Thomas Lamb, nominated by CIOB North East and employed by Keepmoat Regeneration Ltd
– Jonathan Heads, nominated and employed by Willmott Dixon Construction
– Kin Ma, nominated and employed by Hodgson Sayers
– Alex Nesbitt, nominated and employed by Turner & Townsend
– Louis Reeson, nominated and employed by Interserve Construction


Commitment to Employee Development
Sponsored by CIOB North East                               CIOB Logo

– Esh Group
– Interserve Construction

Young Achiever – G4C Award
Sponsored by NCBF                                                    NCBF

– Amy Wright, nominated by ICE North East and employed by Farrans Construction
– Jack Brayford,
nominated and employed by Esh Group
– Robert Chin,
nominated and employed by Northumbrian Water Group
– Natacha Redon,
nominated and employed by Identity Consult
– Rachel Atkinson,
nominated and employed by Mott MacDonald
– Dr Alex Nicholson,
nominated and employed by Ove Arup & Partners Ltd
– Ben Kinch,
nominated by Northumbria University and employed by GreatSpace Design

To book tickets for the Awards ceremony taking place on April 1st at the Hilton NewcastleGateshead please contact Leanne on 0191 5007880 or leanne@cene.org.uk

12th February Journal Column

Web-LogoBy Catriona Lingwood, Chief Executive of Constructing Excellence in the North East

Summer might seem like a lifetime ago, but it’s only been seven months since the chancellor first announced that tackling low productivity was to be one of the Government’s main priorities in the coming year.

Following the announcement, the Treasury was quick to release the ‘productivity plan’ and the chancellor reiterated his big plans for productivity in November’s Autumn Statement. Talking about it is all well and good but we need to see actions, not just hear words.

Boosting productivity across the whole economy is still one of the government’s biggest targets, but since last summer we haven’t seen a lot of evidence to show that they are trying to find solutions to the problem.

Office for National Statistics (ONS) data shows that productivity has improved very little in the last 20 years. Productivity, measured by construction output per worker and construction output per hour, shows that in the past 20 years output per worker has only increased by 1.4 per cent and output per hour only slightly more at 3.3 per cent – still not very impressive statistics, but is it all about numbers?

In the same time period, overall industry output has risen 21 per cent and the number of construction jobs is up 17.1 per cent. So progress is happening, it’s just at a very slow pace.

These statistics don’t take into account improvements the industry has made in safety standards and the quality of work it is producing. The way productivity is measured does not adjust for quality or standards.

For an outsider looking into the industry and focussing on the statistics, productivity may appear low, and it certainly is compared to other industries, but is it simply down to the way in which work is carried out – making it difficult for the industry to set targets and see any improvement?
Although workforce has increased recently, we’re still around 100,000 jobs shy of the pre-recession peak. So once again, the skills shortage is causing us problems. Can we really expect companies to improve productivity when they don’t have the workforce and are struggling to recruit?

The cyclical nature of the industry makes it difficult for firms to improve their efficiency and productivity. Offsite manufacturing has been suggested as a way to solve this problem, but manufacturing would not be reflected in construction output statistics, so it would have no effect on our productivity.

I wouldn’t necessarily say we have a productivity problem, the fact we are still years behind other industries in terms of technology just means we have more opportunities to take.

Yes, we’ve come on leaps and bounds in terms of technology and training, but we still have a long way to go – improvements in both areas will improve productivity.

I have every faith that businesses can pull together and boost the industry’s productivity, it might sound like a tough challenge, but we’ve overcome much more!

11th February 2016 Newsletter

To view this week’s newsletter including forthcoming events please click here.

5th February Journal Column

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

You know the saying, waste not, want not? Well following the results of a freedom of information request, it couldn’t be more fitting.

New research has shown that councils are wasting thousands of pounds by failing to use government mandated procurement standards.

The prequalification questions are there to ensure projects can be completed, so that suppliers have everything at hand and want for nothing.

The Publicly Available Specification (PAS) provides a set of questions to be asked by buyers of potential suppliers to enable prequalification for construction projects.

New research from the Electrical Contractors’ Association (ECA) found that 27 per cent of local authorities across the country failed to use the PAS 91 standards.

PAS 91 was launched in October 2010, aiming to bring together the various question sets used between buyers – making it easier for the supplier to complete.

Using the prequalification questions makes sure the right resources are available, wasting this opportunity could result in wanting tools/supplies that aren’t actually available to you.

Councils should take the results from the research as a huge warning that they are potentially wasting thousands of pounds in procurement costs by failing to meet these standards.

The results of the survey also revealed that 18 per cent of councils admitted to not knowing if they even used the government mandated template.

Failing to use these standardised procurement methods causes finance related issues, as using other procurement standards can increase costs.

It can also have a significant impact on small construction firms and their ability to gain local authority contracts.

It’s crucial the smaller firms have as good of a chance as any when bidding for public sector contracts and using PAS 91 can help achieve this. By not using these types of standardised procurement tools, it makes it harder to apply, which favours the bigger firms who have the time, money and resources to do the extensive paperwork required.

Less than one third, (31 per cent) of local authorities said they used PAS 91 and it’s a shame to see that the figure is so low. For some time now we’ve been asking the government for a lot of things whether it be new homes or increases in apprenticeships, and when they finally give us something to help the industry nobody takes advantage of it.

Now, I know it’s been 6 years since the launch, and PAS 91 is now a little out-dated. I’m sure an update would be considered if it’s likely to increase the number of local authorities using it, so let the government know; after all shy bairns get nowt!