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Help young people and in turn, they will help you.

03 Feb 2022

Hear why Kevin Dodds thinks working with schools and colleges and being a Cornerstone Employer is good for business.

As Construction Director at G F Tomlinson and Chairman of the Derbyshire South Cornerstone Employers Group, sharing with students and young people the many opportunities and rewards a career in the construction industry can bring is a passion of mine.

There are major skills shortages across the sector and COVID has reduced engagement between schools and SME’s which helped students gain a realistic understanding of the labour market. So, action is needed to raise the profile of apprenticeships and T Levels as positive pathways into great careers.

The recruitment of young people is the lifeblood of any successful company and new, raw talent must be brought in place to replace those that leave or retire from the industry. A regular and repeated cycle of youth recruitment brings vigour, enthusiasm, new skills and abundant confidence to any organisation.


Kevin Dodds, Construction Director, G F Tomlinson and Chairman of the Derbyshire South Cornerstone Employers Group

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A regular and repeated cycle of youth recruitment brings vigour, enthusiasm, new skills and abundant confidence to any organisation.

Kevin Dodds, Construction Director, G F Tomlinson

In recent years, young people have been encouraged to gain a university education and the appeal of apprenticeships dropped. This is now improving, but it is only because of enlightened employers and the effort and commitment of groups like the Derbyshire South Cornerstone Employers Group that things are moving in the right direction.

The group works with businesses and the Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) to help drive change locally, encouraging others to commit to improving the opportunities for young people in this area and welcoming the huge positive impact that brings to business.

This work not only improves outcomes for students, but also for the construction sector. The need to increase the number of skilled professionals in the industry is becoming increasingly urgent. To do this, we are working with supply chains to support them in engaging with young people in schools and colleges, but we need other like-minded businesses to do the same.

The Social Value Act requires that public sector contracts must deliver social value benefits, and both public and private sector clients in our industry are looking to work with responsible and sustainable businesses. It is now common to find minimum outcomes of employment and skills plans and social value investment written into contracts, aiming specifically towards young people and the local community.

To that end, we are working collaboratively to produce a ‘Create Social Value’ pack and finding creative ways to share this with employers through local and national networks, with the aim of getting more businesses of all sizes engaging with students and young people.

This is such important and impactful work and I’d like to encourage all businesses in the sector to engage in this network – from ad hoc activities in schools and colleges, to more strategic roles such as becoming an Enterprise Adviser and a Cornerstone Employer.

Being a Cornerstone Employer means we work together with local schools and colleges to maximise employment opportunities for the students. We assist directly by providing work experience, mock interviews, workplace visits, careers talks and ultimately apprenticeships. We also engage and interact though our team of Enterprise Advisers, with career leaders and senior leadership teams to ‘teach the teachers’. By doing this we aim to enlighten the education professionals about the multiple opportunities, roles, trades and professions that are available to young people in our industry.

To conclude, and on a personal note, working with young people is immensely rewarding and gives many of us a chance to pay a little back, pass on some knowledge and give younger people a hand-up to a rewarding career. Professionally and personally, I urge other businesses to get involved and become a Cornerstone Employer and encourage your team to become advisers for local schools.

G F Tomlinson is a founding member of The Careers & Enterprise Company’s Cornerstone Employers.

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