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Maximising the social value of training

Iain Gambardella - CROPThere are plenty of success stories surrounding young people in construction and with over 13,000 new apprentices in the past year, we’re bound to see many more. But they are only part of a bigger picture.

Training and local recruitment now sit at the forefront of the procurement process, thanks to the Public Services (Social Value) Act 2012. While apprenticeships remain a popular choice among young people in many sectors, the Act encourages any initiative which improves economic and social well-being in the community. For our industry, this should mean developing and collaborating on bespoke initiatives best suited to new recruits, which address their social value obligations in ways which make a real and lasting impact.

It is becoming more and more transparent to our local authority clients which contractors are making an effort to help in real terms, and who is only paying lip service to the cause. Increasingly, committing to social value is a commercial imperative in our industry. Put simply, if a company doesn’t acknowledge its importance, it will find itself losing out on work to those who do.

Yet it’s difficult to achieve this alone, and not all councils are doing enough in making social value a first priority. In our experience, it can be too dependent on the social demographics in a given authority, and uptake varies from borough to borough. Instead, local authorities should be tenacious. In some instances, they should even use the Act as a catalyst to drive best practice on contracts which pre-date it, and success should be shared across the sector.

By being demanding, collaborative and allocating sufficient resources to deliver dynamic and diverse training, local authorities will make it easier to help recruit new faces. At present, we occasionally still see job centres lacking information on the available opportunities – this should be addressed on a national scale.

Local authorities should demand a range of training options to achieve the greatest impact – and this goes beyond just the number of recruits. If we want to attract more young people to construction and regeneration for the long term, our aspiration should be to give them a choice between training opportunities, letting them join at the appropriate level.

We know that apprenticeships aren’t for everyone, which is why we offer other options. The government’s traineeships programme – a ‘pre-apprenticeship’ scheme – has appealed to those between education and full-time employment. Trainees gain relevant work experience as well as English, maths and employment skills training, giving them the confidence to move on to the next step of their career.

Our Advanced Apprenticeship Programme, launched last year, provides housing and construction focused apprenticeships, but in the less cyclical and non-trade areas of our business such as design, HR and ICT, reflecting the diversity of the sector. Work experience and other placements should also form part of the picture.

We work with local authorities on schemes which are easily replicable – this allows us to refine them as time goes on, but also gives us a frame of reference when working with other clients, meaning they can be confident that social value obligations will be fulfilled.

The Social Value Act has put socio-economic impact centre stage. We have the tools to deliver holistic, lasting impact, and if we want to see results come off the page and into the workplace, we must work together to make it happen.

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