Equality and Diversity is an Issue for the Here and Now for Highways

The infrastructure sector is highly focused on promoting equality and diversity. This is inevitable when you consider the journey that construction is having to make from its traditional workforce to where we need to be.

Contractors and supply chains are having to engineer structural changes in the way they recruit and develop talent. Significantly, we are having to fundamentally change how the industry presents itself to potential employees.

Within Osborne we have our own mid-term strategy. This aims to ensure that by 2021 we are recognised for the diversity of our workforce, our reputation for treating everyone with fairness and respect, and the inclusive nature of our culture.

The longer-term transformational vision for our organisation and for the sector is essential; things will not change overnight. But some of the issues we face are immediate and pressing. Not least is a skills shortage that will be made worse by retirements, emerging technology and probably Brexit.

Alongside the vision and the strategy there has to be immediate and practical action underway. Equality and diversity within the procurement process may once have been seen from the perspective of complying with government initiatives; now it’s now a very real question about whether a would-be contractor is likely to have the skills and capacity to deliver their commitments.

Policy statements and aspirations may have once been enough to see a contractor through the Equality and Diversity section of the tender. Now, because having a more diverse workforce is so fundamental to ensuring the industry grows the wider skills base it needs, procurement bodies will probably want to see what is actually happening. They will want to understand the steps that potential partners are taking to attract and develop a more inclusive workforce.

When bidding for a contract we would expect to have to show:
•How our recruitment processes are being adapted
•How issues such as flexible working are accommodated
•How equality and diversity is promoted through learning programmes
•How we work with our supply chain to improve inclusion
•How the EDI strategy links to our business plans, individual goals and incentives

Naturally, some of this is work in progress. But there is progress – and we are happy to share this with our customers, many of whom face similar challenges.