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Helen Clements writes about diversity and change at Morgan Sindall Construction – particularly during Covid-19. Helen’s role is to support delivery of social value across projects in the East of England.

MORE CAREER OPPORTUNITIES THAN APPLICANTS

I work in a sector that has more career opportunities than applicants. Construction is not a diverse sector – with only 13% of women making up the workforce, of which 6% are in technical roles and less than 1% in the trades.

The industry only has 4% BAME representation. This means that it is important that we support inspiring the next generation into our industry. We have developed an educational programme that engages with children from primary age through to 18. To support our connections with education, we are a Cornerstone Employer through The Careers & Enterprise Company for the three opportunity areas in the East of England.

We offer work experience as part of our education programme. We have two types; work shadowing alongside our site project teams and a strategic project-based week. For the project-based week, we partner with schools local to our offices and offer work experience placements to their students.

We target a 50/50 gender split supporting a change to the demographics of the applicants to our degree level apprenticeships.

QUALITY STRATEGIC PROJECTS FOR YOUNG PEOPLE

The project-based week involves 10 students who are split into teams. They are given a project brief: to design a building to a brief, budget and time schedule. Each team member must be one of 5 roles: Project Manager, Quantity Surveyor/Estimator, Planner, Design Manager/Architect, Engineer. All the roles must be covered. Each student is responsible for delivering their element of the project. They hear from experts during the week, who then support them with knowledge for their element of the project. The students visit a live project site and hear from the team.

They attend a CV and Interview technique workshop and hear career journeys from some of our team including apprentices.  On the Thursday they take their 2D designs and working with Architects they turn it into a 3D walk through model using industry software, such as Sketch Up or Revit. On the Friday they present back to senior managers in the business their projects. The week has always received great feedback with all students completing the week and 90% saying they would recommend to others. A third of them stay in contact and some will have further work shadow placements with us. Between 2017 and 2019 we hosted 103 placements over 35 weeks.

Diversity of the cohort improved from 7% women in 2017 to 40% by 2019.

WORK EXPERIENCE DURING COVID-19

In February, we had already hosted our first ten students in the Cambridge office.  We had started interviewing for the remaining eight weeks which were planned in May, June and July. During March these interviews became virtual and students still wanted their placements. With a few tweaks and checking with The Careers & Enterprise Company that we would still meet the Gatsby Benchmarks, we realised we could deliver our project week virtually, including the site visit. We partnered with Speakers for Schools to enable us to deliver the week via Google Classroom.  We delivered our first VWEx week 11th May, with the 31 students that had already been offered our traditional placement.  Being able to deliver virtually allowed us to increase the number of placements we could offer in any one week.

VIRTUAL WORK EXPERIENCE WIDENED OUR REACH

Speakers for Schools and Enterprise Coordinators supported us in widening the geography we offered to by promoting our second virtual work experience (VWEx) week nationally to schools. The week was oversubscribed by 100%.  The demographics of the cohort on the second week were 52% women and 33% BAME.

The impact from both weeks far exceeded our expectation on the impact it had on the young people. Students from both weeks have said it was “the best week of their teenage lives”. Parents have said “thank you for giving me the opportunity to see the capability of my son”.

One student has said that it has made them realise that they want a better life for themselves and are going to really focus this academic year to achieve their GCSEs. Other students realised why they are learning, maths, English, science etc.

VWEx will now be the way we introduce students to work experience with Morgan Sindall Construction East and then those that wish, will then progress to in person placements. 

To find out more about our VWEx, please read our whitepaper: https://construction.morgansindall.com/news/delivering-virtual-work-experience-enriching-work-experience-through-digital-media

Read the new Careers in Context 2020: Can Do Guide for Employers here. Morgan Sindall feature on pages 24 & 29.