Aligning framework community initiatives with local needs

Local highway authorities are progressively turning to single sourced framework agreements to balance increasing highway capacity demands with ever reducing capital and operational budgets.

In taking this step, the assurance that the framework will deliver the local community benefits that meet the authority’s own corporate plan is an important concern for local authorities and public bodies.

These needs typically include establishing how framework suppliers can assist the long-term unemployed – providing opportunities for those entering the industry and in assisting disadvantaged groups.

Our approach is to work with our customer teams to identify the most appropriate local organisations to work with; to align with their own local community plans (i.e. Universal Job Match, Job Centre Plus and charities), and to provide training, support and work opportunities for long-term unemployed.

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In our framework contract with Decorum Borough Council, our team members volunteer once per month at a local centre in partnership with a church. They support the job club and operate a number of activities, courses and events for people in the local community. One of these key areas is the provision of free employment support, providing advice and guidance on job searches, CV’s, application forms and confidence boosting sessions. In addition to providing support for the long-term unemployed, an executive group has been established for professionals who are out of work.

This approach benefits local unemployed people who experience work environments with potential for longer-term employment. Unemployed people will better understand and be better prepared to enter the workplace. Our teams have helped citizens improve their confidence and self-esteem using the skills our people have developed in our STOP Think! behavioural change programme, which adopts a coaching-led approach.

We will work with our customers and local organisations to provide opportunities for people in disadvantaged groups to take part. Activities such as enterprise or problem solving themed activities or site visits will be arranged, aimed at increasing awareness of the opportunities available within the construction industry. Site visits are organised at appropriate times to raise awareness of the impact of the construction project on the local community. In addition to providing these events, our teams are allowed a development day where we encourage them to engage within the communities and local charities in which they work.

Our teams regularly visit both primary and secondary schools to provide talks on the construction / civil engineering industry and provide competitions to challenge the students. We recently attended The Big Bang Fair, which is a week-long event held across various locations in London. The event is organised to enable school children to learn and engage in various STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) workshops and information stands designed to inspire the next generation of civil engineers. Our own Trainee Engineer, Ted Nichols, along with three other members of ICE (Institution of Civil Engineers) were there to run an interactive stand designed to get the children thinking about the fundamentals of structural engineering.

Whilst it is difficult to provide students with work experience on our construction sites for health and safety reasons, we provide opportunities for them to work with our teams in our offices. Students from Waltham Forest School recently joined us for seven days to gain an insight into the diverse roles within Osborne. Shadowing team members, the students spent their time gaining an understanding of the value of developing relationships with customers and what this means. They sat with the contact centre, listening in on calls, learning from the planning team about how to schedule and prioritise work. They also had a tour of local council offices.

We participate in schemes to promote local SME apprenticeships e.g. CoTrain and Reds10 SME. Support also extends to training subcontractor employees, especially health and safety courses run by our safety managers.

We seek to source local SME partners and engage new providers through procurement processes. To maximise local community SME involvement we hold ‘meet the buyer’ events in venues close to the project. These events allow the integrated team to outline opportunities on the project and provide accessibility to SMEs. New companies will then take part in a prequalification process to establish the ability of the company to comply with the requirements set by the integrated team.

We actively encourage careers for women in engineering and support the National Women in Engineering Day. Safia Whitwham, a graduate engineer within our infrastructure business, supports students at the Institute of Civil Engineers, many of whom started their working careers in different industries. One of the current students is Nadia Green who joined our Minor Works Team as a Trainee Quantity Surveyor. Nadia previously worked for an IT company and is currently working through a two year HNC course at college.

We partner with local universities and colleges, to identify and encourage young people to be part of the infrastructure community. We engage trade specific and modern apprentices who undertake fully accredited training. Their development is assessed and delivered by Osborne and the college they are attending. We also support the apprenticeship scheme as a member of the 5% club. 4% of our people are graduate trainees and 4.5% are on apprenticeships. We currently employ 131 young people across our business, including 36 apprentices.

As part of our industry-recognised Institution of Civil Engineers approved training scheme we support graduate engineers to become professionally qualified, providing them with the wide range of practical, technical, commercial, SHE, and innovation skills required to work in an ever evolving industry. Our Quantity Surveying Scheme takes graduate and trainee surveyors and pairs them with suitable mentors to help them achieve Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors accreditation.

The above has simply outlined a small selection of the local community initiatives delivered by Osborne in partnership with our customers. The needs and priorities local to your framework communities will of, course, be very specific and typically require a blend of these approaches to maximise community benefits.

Richard King CEng MICE is a Director at Osborne and Chairman of CECA Southern