Highways Academy inspiring change

New young recruits are being helped into a career in the highways sector by a London based training initiative established to help tackle the construction industry's skills shortages. The London Highways Academy of Excellence (LHAE) was set up in 2014 by FM Conway in partnership with the Worshipful Company of Paviors and CONWAY AECOM (FM Conway’s joint venture with AECOM). Since then the LHAE has scored considerable success helping young people into full time employment. The LHAE was recently presented with the Civil Engineering Contractors Association’s Inspiring Change in the Community Award for 2016.

The construction industry is presently facing one of the worst skills shortages in recent memory. According to the Construction Skills Network report produced by the Construction Industry Training Board and Experian, the construction industry will need to recruit an additional 232,000 workers between now and 2020 to meet current demand – equivalent to a 5.6% per annum increase in the workforce. Such a shortfall is a serious threat to the delivery of planned programmes of road, rail and energy projects.

According to FM Conway, the prevalence of this problem was one of the reasons why it set up the LHAE. The idea was to establish an academy that would serve not only FM Conway and its partners, but anyone in the highways sector that needed to deliver basic skills training to trainees, apprentices and both prospective and current employees. Contractors and local authorities are now making good use of the LHAE to recruit apprentices and deliver cross company training, the company says.

A unique aspect of the LHAE offer is a course specially designed for inexperienced, young job-seekers – often those who’ve never worked before – to help them take their first steps into a new career. Called the London Pass, the course provides guidance on key areas ranging from timekeeping and personal appearance through to health and safety, customer care and sustainability. While the London Pass is well-suited to those keen to work in construction, it’s also open to anyone looking to kick-start a career in the capital.

The LHAE also runs a pre-apprenticeship programme. Fully-funded, the two week course aims to give young people – in particular those from disadvantaged backgrounds – the skills to secure jobs that were previously out of their reach.  Those who complete the programme receive the London Pass accreditation, and although only launched in summer 2014, it has already begun to have an impact. Of the twenty-one young Londoners who took part in the last course, thirteen have since gone on to secure full-time apprenticeships with FM Conway, CONWAY AECOM and other contractors.