In 2019-20, Hampshire County Council’s Construction Skills Fund project trained over 1000 people in one year, and used its Employment and Skills Plans to get people into work with best social value for Hampshire residents.
The construction industry is strong in Hampshire, however a widening skills and labour gap created a shortage of people available to fill the jobs. In 2019-20, Hampshire County Council’s Construction Skills Fund project trained over 1000 people in one year, and used its Employment and Skills Plans to get people into work with best social value for Hampshire residents. Post COVID-19, such projects will continue to make a valuable contribution to Hampshire’s skills-based recovery plan.
The aim of Hampshire County Council’s Construction Skills Fund is to attract new entrants to the industry and make construction workforce more diverse. Low levels of unemployment and barriers faced by those in long-term unemployment made it difficult to find recruits. The economic implications of Brexit and the Covid-19 shutdown created risk to jobs and training throughout the project.
The Employment and Skills Hub at Hampshire County Council demonstrates good practice in designing ESPs, which enable construction companies to engage with major infrastructure projects procured by the council. The challenge was to combine this long-term partnership work with the shorter term CSF project objectives.
A pre-project industry consultation identified three Pre-Employment pathways, which were delivered by five training providers in 8 locations:
• General Trades
• Plant and Machinery
• Civil Engineering
Quality pre-employment training like this forms part of Hampshire County Council’s skills-led recovery plan, while businesses reshape their options around vocational training and apprenticeships.
Developers linked to ESPs achieved their social value obligations by offering work experience and jobs to CSF completers. The council’s partnerships with local authorities through which good quality ESPs are designed will create further opportunities for jobs and training as the economy recovers.
The project’s firm governance and stakeholder links rooted this construction project firmly in its local context, enabling an agile response to the COVID-19 crisis.
The impact (including cost savings/income generated if applicable):
During the project over 1000 individuals were trained, with over 500 starting jobs to date, and CSF surpassed its 30 per cent sustained employment target. Due to the initial success, CSF received more project funding, and the final total generated was over £1.7 million in Hampshire.
Over 500 people from non-traditional entry routes were included, such as women, those living with disabilities and people from minority ethnic groups. Case studies on individuals showed the life-changing potential of the project: Cliff from the night shelter in Winchester now able to rent his own home thanks to work onsite through an ESP in Eastleigh.
How is the new approach being sustained?
Hampshire County Council has secured a further £930k to continue construction training until 31 March 2021. The partnerships created in phase one will ensure maximum CSF benefit from the government’s
Kickstart scheme, to protect Hampshire’s young people from joining a generation of unemployment.
The CSF project was a huge success: 92 per cent of responders said that CSF training helped them apply for a job in construction, according to the National Evaluation Experiences Online. A robust project plan from the start, a strong steering group, meaningful referral pathways as well as a highly motivated and committed staff team all contributed to this.
Job outcomes depended on a collaborative model using the engaged stakeholder group to address immediate skill shortages and vary training accordingly. Early interventions with new employers and employment agencies turned the problem of employment targets into a feature of success.
Regular contract management meetings have helped the CSF team adapt to changes on the project as a result of COVID-19, as well as assessing course quality and project progress.
The project team adapted their ways of working to reflect the current situation, resulting in unexpected benefits - improved working relationships in a remote setting, faster turnaround in referrals, better problem solving through speedy virtual meetings and improved mental health for the whole CSF team.
Links to relevant documents