It was back in 2020, when I first remember chatting to Chris Green - head of construction at Redbridge Community School in Southampton - and the five poignant words he mentioned; “a commitment over time, matters”, resonated deeply with what we wanted to achieve together.
I’d made a pledge with Southampton City Council as to how we could help them recover post-pandemic, and part of that commitment was to have a real impact on what Morgan Sindall Construction was doing in their communities to leave a real legacy.
The Council is continually driving itself to be a ‘city of opportunity where everyone can thrive,’ and partnerships with action are key in making this happen. I really liked that vision statement, because what it does is guide our offering to be inclusive of everyone, especially those in areas of deprivation.
Providing opportunities that reach into these areas became a key part in unlocking a partnership that could have the most impact.
Redbridge Community School is located in a suburb of Southampton and is an area of high deprivation.
So, as I chatted to Chris about their dedicated Construction Academy and how they were looking for a partner to help springboard its curriculum and onward opportunities programme, it quickly became an obvious choice for our partnership.
Here it seemed, we could create a real lasting impact, bring more people into an industry which so desperately needs them, whilst also tying in with the sentiment in the City Councils vision. That’s why, in 2021, shortly after meeting Chris, we put pen to paper on a five-year partnership.
Yes, we did a launch, and yes there was publicity about it, but that signing was the starting line. The real litmus test would be in the action, and the outcomes in the years to follow.
The partnership is inspired by a belief that offering secure foundations for children to build their futures is crucial and will help both organisations overcome challenges, from skills shortages to low school retention rates.
Over the last two years, we have worked with their year 10 and 11 students, providing hands on activities in school, site visits, career mentoring and work experience placements, as they work towards their City & Guilds Technical Award in Construction and the Built Environment.
The partnership has helped me draw a lot of parallels with the students. After leaving school I also headed into construction – taking up joinery and then going on to College to do a BTEC National in Building Studies, whilst working for a main contractor.
I’ve so enjoyed the sessions at the academy, sharing my journey from apprentice through project management, to leading a business.
It’s been great to get into discussions with them about the opportunity and diversity this industry offers, how there are so many career routes available, and reminding them that they are absolutely part of being in this city of opportunities, where everyone can thrive.
It’s been an absolute privilege to see the students thriving.
This September we entered our third year in partnership – an important milestone, as it’s also seen the first cohort of students we’ve supported, graduate from the academy.
As fresh faced 16-year-olds, they must continue the education pathway for at least two more years. With that in mind, we have taken on five of the students and will mentor them through college.
This includes covering all their travel costs, assigning them a full-time mentor, and providing them with site visits and work experience, so that when they reach the end of their college course, they have already aligned themselves ideally to secure an apprenticeship or job role within Morgan Sindall Construction or the wider industry. Where we can’t offer opportunities, we have a huge supply chain that can.
Alongside this, we’re again up and running supporting the next cohort of entrants into the academy in the same way – providing a tangible steppingstone programme to a career in construction.
So, whilst this partnership has already borne fruit, I keep coming back to those five poignant words Chris said to me back in 2020 – a commitment over time, matters. Because it is that sentiment which underpins the partnership, and everything we do to create a real lasting legacy – it’s about the long game for these students, and if they’re ‘all in’ for the long-term, then we are too.
Here’s to the next three years, at the very least.