The agreements state simply what percentage of the new workforce has to be local. But having made an agreement, it was hard to get information from businesses confirming that they had kept their side of the bargain – and harder still to enforce the agreement if they had not.
“Enforcement wasn’t the only problem,” says Caroline Derrick, Employment, Skills and Training Manager at Sedgemoor District Council. “Since the economic downturn, construction has been facing significant skills shortages.
“The Local Labour Agreements weren’t centred on skills. The onus was on businesses to employ locally, but the skills they needed weren’t always there.
“It was a missed opportunity twice over. Our local people weren’t getting the jobs – and they weren’t getting the skills to get the jobs either.”
A client based approach
“We saw that there was a huge opportunity to embed training in local projects,” Caroline says, “and the NSAfC’s client based approach (CBA) does exactly that.”
With CITB’s help, the CBA enables public sector bodies to develop a strategy to support the inclusion of apprenticeships, work placement and other training opportunities.
This is done through an industry-led framework based on benchmark targets agreed according to the type and cost of the project. The benchmarks are proportionate and achievable, having been developed in close collaboration between CITB and the industry.
“Our pilot project to gain NSAfC accreditation was with Redrow, the housebuilder, who were developing the Chilton Waters housing project near Bridgwater,” Caroline says.
“It was a great success and from there we established an effective working procedure for future projects.”
On the job
“My job is to forge a strong working relationship with the main contractor, and explain the benefits of having the CBA in their contract.
“It’s really important to reassure them about the benchmarks – the work placements, on-site training, careers advice, job creation and so on.
“They need to know it’s a collaborative effort. If they don’t hit the targets, it’s the relationship that’s failed, not the contractor.