The wider civil engineering and construction industry faces many challenges – an aging workforce, future skills shortages and a lack of minority representation. Supporting a diverse workforce – a recognised stimulus of innovation and enhanced team performance, will meet the skills shortages and enable growth in civil engineering.
Wales also faces high levels of youth unemployment, one in seven 16-24 year olds is unemployed and even higher in the South Wales Valleys. We target the recruitment of young people from the communities in which we work, often targeting those who are not in education, employment or training (NEET). We also take on apprentices who have been made unemployed or redundant by other companies during training schemes and support them to continue their learning and complete their qualifications.
At our A483 Newtown Bypass Project in Powys for Welsh Government, we applied for and were granted National Skills Academy for Construction (NSAfC) status by CITB. This, in coordination with our in-house apprentice training scheme – known as Apprentice+, would support our target of reducing youth unemployment and increasing skills and employability in Powys and rural mid Wales.
The main challenge was the identification of young, local people wanting to join the industry. Historically, there had been no provision for civil engineering qualifications in NPTC College, Newtown Campus (the closest being North or South Wales) and attracting a disengaged, under qualified demographic proved difficult.