A Costain Skanska joint venture is setting a new standard for delivering social value on major infrastructure projects, write Neal Carter and Louise Dailly.
At the Costain Skanska joint venture (CSjv) we are marking a significant milestone. By the end of 2020, we will have employed over 200 previously unemployed people on the HS2 enabling works programme and reached over 11,000 young people in schools.
A big part of what we do is about contributing to a sustainable future for the communities around us. No two areas of the UK are the same, so the way people in each community define value will differ. With the scale and breadth of HS2, there is a perfect opportunity to create lasting outcomes for local people for many years to come, even after our works are completed and the railway is operational, linking up London, the Midlands and the north of England and rebalancing our economy.
By developing strong partnerships with key organisations such as Buses for Homeless, Bounce Back, C4WS, New Horizon Youth Centre, Women into Construction and St Mungo’s, we have been able to fully understand the needs of the community and work to find solutions to support these needs. We worked closely with borough councils and local residents to understand their priorities, to ensure the activities we deliver on behalf of HS2 produce meaningful outcomes and longer-term benefits for the community.
Our social legacy programme is fundamentally about improving people’s lives – from helping the homeless find accommodation and work on the HS2 programme, to creating career opportunities for young people by developing their science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) skills.
Proactively seeking positive ways to support jobs, improve outcomes for local people and help community cohesion is one of the most rewarding parts of managing the delivery of a major infrastructure project.
The Social Value Portal has independently verified the value of our legacy activities over the last four years, which have achieved an equivalent of £115m of social value across seven London boroughs. Our contribution to the social value supports the long-term wellbeing and resilience of individuals, communities, and society.
Working in partnership
In the summer, we built on our social value commitments by becoming a founding partner of the HS2 Empowering Communities initiative, a ten-year social legacy programme for the construction of HS2 in London to deliver long-lasting benefits for local people for generations to come. An industry-first, the programme combines the strengths of Costain, Skanska, HS2, STRABAG, Arup, Mace Dragados, and Network Rail to deliver more, together.
Empowering Communities is unique because it is led by the construction industry, with HS2 as a partner. Another important factor is our collaboration with the community, enabling local people to have a say in what the programme delivers for their communities. By working together, we are already seeing a far bigger impact than we could achieve individually and therefore we are confident that this approach will set a new standard for major projects in future.
"The social value generated by Costain Skanska on the HS2 contract shows how public-private partnerships can deliver for communities when businesses are supported to deliver innovative and impactful programmes."
Liz Crowhurst, head of infrastructure, CBI
The Empowering Communities initiative will involve us working together to create jobs for the unemployed and homeless; help young people to develop new STEM skills and access apprenticeships; and support community projects.
At the Empowering Communities launch in July 2020, Mark Thurston, CEO of HS2, spoke of his vision for rolling out this way of working in partnership with local communities along the whole route: “Our contractors are leading the way in creating thousands of employment opportunities with businesses both along the route and across the country,” he said. “HS2 truly is a national endeavour and we encourage all of our supply chain to work with local communities and organisations to seize these opportunities and create a diverse workforce to deliver our new high-speed railway,” said Thurston.
The CBI continues to reiterate its desire to see social value embedded more consistently throughout public-private partnerships. They have identified HS2 as already showing the benefits for local communities of strong collaboration between suppliers and clients.
Attracting the talent of the future
Since 2016, we have worked closely with 80 schools across the seven London boroughs on the HS2 route. We have been able to respond to their desire to inspire young people to develop STEM skills and consider future careers paths in this area by providing 80 STEM ambassadors. So far, they have supported 2,247 work placement days.
To support care leavers, who can face additional challenges when entering the world of work, we have partnered with the Care Leavers Covenant. This government-supported initiative supports young people aged 16 to 25, who are recently out of care, to lead independent lives. We have been able to offer mentoring, work experience and jobs.
Helping more people into work
Our programme has created jobs for over 200 previously unemployed people and 42 apprenticeships in quantity surveying, business administration, security, and civil engineering.
We support Bounce Back, a charity focused on training and employment for ex-offenders, which aims to significantly reduce reoffending rates and help individuals to reintegrate into society. Since it started nine years ago, Bounce Back has supported nearly 2,000 people and partners with construction companies who employ their participants. By teaming up with the charity, volunteers from CSjv were able to attend events in prisons across the country supporting offenders.
Supporting people experiencing homelessness to rebuild their lives
Two of the boroughs that we work in – Camden and Westminster – have some of the highest rates of homelessness in London. Throughout the pandemic, homeless charities have been limited in the number of people they can help by social distancing restrictions.
Last winter, we established a partnership with social enterprise Buses for Homeless (B4H), who refurbish decommissioned London buses into spaces for eating, sleeping, wellbeing and learning. Our partnership enabled them to run a pilot programme, comprising 12 weeks of structured training designed to support the homeless back into full time sustainable employment, while providing them with a place to live.
We provided equipment and land for the buses and B4H could receive its first cohort of guests just before Christmas last December. This year, they have remained open through spikes in rough sleeping in London, which increased by a third during the pandemic according to statistics from the London Assembly Housing Committee.
We also partner with local charities C4WS and New Horizons Centre who work with vulnerable, homeless and at-risk people. These organisations provide invaluable training and skills programmes, which we have supported through placements and job opportunities.
Our work in partnership with charities has helped nine homeless people to find full time jobs working for HS2 at our Euston and Old Oak Common sites. We have been able to welcome new colleagues into security, ground worker and general operative roles.
As the Enabling Works programme starts to wind down, our focus will turn to sharing best practice and handing the Empowering Communities baton to the Skanska Costain STRABAG joint venture on the HS2 main works project, ensuring our initiatives continue to thrive and improve the lives of local people.
Neal Carter is deputy programme director and Louise Dailly is head of legacy at the Costain Skanska joint venture.