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Building strength

by Karen Jensen-Jones Tue 20 February 2018, 10:29 am

In Enfield, the local council and large development and construction companies are working towards a similar goal: to grow and develop a young workforce in the industry for future prosperity. Karen Jensen-Jones reports

It may take some convincing to prove that a career in the construction industry is an exciting and rewarding prospect, but that's exactly what Enfield Council has set out to do.

The Build Enfield programme recently launched with the aim of creating a strong and sustainable local workforce in an industry badly in need of a rebrand.

Its ambitious plan to create a generation of workers capable of regenerating and sustaining the borough is making considerable progress.

Councillor Alan Sitkin, lead member for business and economic development at Enfield Council, explains: "Offering good careers to local people is obviously a really positive step for the residents in our borough.

"The construction industry is booming right now and it’s destined to remain active in the residential market and industrial sector. As a borough, we're very involved in regeneration in both those areas so a lot of the demand is local to Enfield."

Dismissing outdated views that the construction industry is a male-dominated environment and a hazardous place to work, the aim is to encourage people from all walks of life to learn about what the industry really has to offer.

It is estimated that around 179,000 construction sector workers will be required in the UK in the next five years.

And as construction is surprisingly one of the most high-tech, pioneering sectors around, it requires top-quality students for roles from accountancy to virtual reality design.

"There’s quite a gap between companies looking for recruits and secondary schools offering information on careers in construction," explains Sitkin.

"We've worked hard to form closer relationships and bridge the gap by putting them together through local events such as Construct With Us.

"These networking events enable students to discuss work opportunities face-to-face with contractors in the industry."

The crossover between students and employers has played a vital role in the success of the scheme, with two local further education colleges based in the borough at the forefront.

The College of Haringey, Enfield and North East London (CONEL) and Barnet and Southgate College both offer a number of well-established construction courses and traineeships.

Lystra Greaves is 17 and from Enfield.

She is studying for a carpentry and joinery Diploma Level 1 at CONEL and is challenging stereotypes that only males are interested in the sector. "Although my course is male dominated, it doesn’t bother me as we’re all there for the same reason," she says.

"When I was at school I was the only girl in my class doing woodwork. When I spoke to other girls there about working in the industry, they would say they can't do it or they weren't strong enough.

"I think it's really important that we get rid of the negative image of construction and destroy gender stereotypes. It's about reassuring girls that they can do as much, if not more than the boys. If I can be a role model for other girls to choose construction as a career, that would be great."

A longer version of this article appears in issue 9 of Opportunity Enfield magazine

Click here to get a copy

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