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