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Students virtually experience the diversity of construction jobs through HS2

Empowering Communities partners joined together to run a virtual work experience programme for secondary school students to help students develop STEM skills.

Empowering Communities partners – HS2’s contractors Arup, Costain, Mace Dragados, Skanska and STRABAG – joined together to run a virtual work experience programme for 38 young people aged 16 to 18 during their October half term, working with 24 schools from across seven London boroughs.

Developed as a virtual programme due to coronavirus restrictions, it was designed to help students develop STEM skills and understand the job opportunities available. Construction partners based in Greater London will collectively recruit over 10,000 new jobs as HS2 gears up for major construction, and HS2 forecast that the project will create at least 2,000 apprenticeships on Phase One.

The week-long scheme, facilitated through Skanska Costain STRABAG JV, supported students to take part in 16 different webinars and workshops and hear from 23 expert speakers. Students also heard from the wider supply chain, with support from Morrison Utility Services, Danny Sullivan Group, McGinley Support Services and VCG.

Designed to support a more diverse construction sector at a time when many young people are being cut off from work experience, 42% of the intake on the programme were female and 78% were from Black, Asian, and Minority ethnic communities.

Using the Google Classroom platform, the daily timetable included workshops and live presentations from different companies, with students then splitting into small groups to tackle set tasks in the afternoon in ‘virtual study rooms’ before returning to the ‘main room’ to present their work. Students heard from speakers about their route into the sector through apprenticeships and learnt about CV writing and interviews. Other popular topics included insights into BIM (Building Information Modelling), the role of archaeology on major projects, and how companies support employee mental health.

Louise Dailly, Head of Social Sustainability at Skanska Costain STRABAG JV, and Chair of the Empowering Communities steering group, said: “Empowering Communities partners are committed to showcasing opportunities for young people in construction and taking action to increase the diversity of our industry. We really value our work in partnership with local schools to support young people to take part in this virtual work experience despite Coronavirus restrictions, so we can continue to help students to see the wide range of jobs available and develop their skills.”

Empowering Communities will run another work experience placement next year in February half term, which will include new partner, Network Rail.