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CN Briefing: Open Doors Week; Willmott Dixon Interiors; skills shortage

Visiting Brighton in June, you could be forgiven for expecting sunshine – even if your trip is to get behind the hoardings of a live construction site rather than dipping your toes in the sea.

But as Open Doors Week kicked off, the south coast was bathing less in sunlight and more in an incessant light drizzle under a blanket of grey.

The industry has enough to do in showing the public why construction can be such an inspiring sector to work in, so everyone taking part in Open Doors will be determined not to let poor weather – or anything else – put people off.

Willmott Dixon’s fit-out and refurbishment arm Willmott Dixon Interiors is on site at the University of Sussex in Falmer, about nine miles from Brighton beach as the seagull flies.

They’ve opened up this ground floor refurbishment scheme on the university’s Chichester I building to give people a glimpse of what’s going on behind the cladding.

We’re taken into the belly of the site: up concrete steps and under dangling wires, across uncovered (and sadly soon to be re-covered) original parquet flooring, past heavily clad red-brick buildings and into a courtyard complete with a pond where the fish have come to recognise high-vis jackets as a sign they might be fed.

Open Doors is about giving people who are considering a career in construction the opportunity to see what it’s like first hand, dust and all, and no one could accuse Willmott Dixon of passing up this opportunity to do just that.

But this is a live site, too, and the touring party gets to see how the end-user benefits from the work the industry delivers every day.

The university’s informatics and engineering departments are already back in-situ, working as normal in their new surroundings, having been displaced to another part of the building while phase one was undertaken.

Meanwhile students and staff will continue to use different areas of the building as Willmott Dixon continues its refurbishment and facade improvement work elsewhere.

During my visit I get to meet Dan, a 19-year-old working for the project’s mechanical subcontractor, BMS.

He was sent a Facebook message by Brighton council’s Youth Employability Service suggesting he try two weeks’ work experience with Willmott Dixon, which is taking placements as part of this scheme.

Within a fortnight, Dan was given – and took – the chance to get fully involved with the work being done here, landing himself a full-time contract with BMS that will see him working in Brighton and then London for many months to come.

That opportunity was only possible through firms taking the issue of discovering new talent seriously, and it needs to happen more often if young people like Dan are going to get into the industry.

Open Doors Week is the time to shout about these opportunities as loudly as possible.

Also today

Balfour Beatty’s sustainability director has left the firm after an internal department merger.

TfL is urging contractors interested in their £500m roads framework to team up with consultants when bidding for work.

Missed the CN Developer Forum last week? Hear from some of the day’s senior speakers – and watch out for more video later this week.

 

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