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And finally… Launch of UK’s first dedicated degree in housebuilding

Housebuilder Redrow has teamed up with Liverpool John Moores University (LJMU) and Coleg Cambria, one of the UK’s largest colleges, to establish the UK’s first dedicated Housebuilding Degree.

LJMU have also validated the qualification.

The first students to embark on the degree programme will be Redrow team members and they will start their course in 2018. Over the coming years Redrow hope to open the degree out to other housebuilders.

The three-year degree gives candidates a full overview of housebuilding skills; these include housebuilding quality, project management, health and safety, business skills, negotiation, right through to relevant aspects of law, mathematics and economics. Six modules will be completed each year by students.

Candidates will be assessed in a variety of ways including examinations, coursework and a final year dissertation project. In each year there are six block weeks of classroom learning which will be taught in partnership between LJMU’s Department of the Built Environment, Coleg Cambria and Redrow business experts with the rest of the contact time satisfied through virtual learning, practical site visits and tutorials. This means that students will be able to continue to combine working with Redrow with their studies.

Any Redrow team member with a level three qualification or a minimum of five years in industry can be nominated for the programme and Redrow expects up to 15 people to participate in each year.

The first two years will form a foundation degree with the final year topping up to become a full degree in Construction Management – Housebuilding. Redrow has already seen success in 2017 through its training programme, announcing a record 353 trainees in its workforce earlier this year, a 19% increase on 2016.

Karen Jones, group HR director at Redrow and Trustee at the Construction Industry Training Board, said: “The housebuilding sector has a real opportunity to innovate the way we develop and deliver skills training to ensure colleagues can fulfil their potential and progress in their careers. Part of that means working in partnership with further education and higher education providers to develop new pathways that enable recruits to develop the aptitude, attitude and strategic nous to deliver communities at scale.

“This is why we are working with Coleg Cambria and Liverpool John Moores University to deliver the UK’s first dedicated Housebuilding Degree. Participants on the course will be able to learn while they earn and develop the skills necessary to rise through the ranks in the housebuilding sector.

“We feel it is important to share best practice with other housebuilders and we hope that in the future that the degree programme can be opened up to construction industry workers from across the industry. We believe this new programme will encourage people to enter the sector, as well as imparting crucial skills on those already in the workforce.”

Economy secretary assures parliament over jobs and future of AWPR

Keith Brown on a visit to the AWPR site last year

Cabinet secretary for the economy, jobs and fair work, Keith Brown, has moved to reassure MSPs that disruption and job losses caused by Carillion’s collapse would be minimised in Scotland, though the minister stopped short of giving an opening date for the Aberdeen Western Peripheral Route (AWPR).

The UK’s second-biggest builder entered liquidation on Monday after racking up debt and pensions burdens of around £1.5 billion.

The firm formed one-third of the Aberdeen Roads Ltd (ARL) consortium leading the £745 million AWPR work alongside Balfour Beatty and Galliford Try.

In a topical question at Holyrood, Aberdeenshire East MSP Gillian Martin raised concern for jobs dependent upon the project and also the knock-on effect on smaller companies in the supply chain in the North East and throughout Scotland.

In response, Mr Brown said that support is available to any workers who may be concerned for their jobs, with help and advice to be made available to subcontractors through a designated Scottish Enterprise helpline.

Furthermore, the cabinet secretary assured parliament over the contract to deliver the AWPR scheme with the other firms involved in the consortium making clear that they will fulfil their contract obligations and had “very quickly” notified the London Stock Exchange of their intention. Mr Brown confirmed that Transport Scotland will support and work with them throughout this process.

The economy secretary said he was unable to give a “cast-iron guarantee” that jobs would not be lost as a result of the liquidation of the company, but said there was a “good chance” employees would continue to work on existing projects.

When asked about the future of Carillion employees working on the bypass, Mr Brown said: “I think it is likely that the two remaining contractors will require work to be done that was previously done by the employees of Carillion.

“I don’t want to be too definitive, but there’s around 70-plus employees, direct employees of Carillion, employed on that contract plus 190 employed on other terms, including some agency staff.

“We can’t give a cast iron guarantee on the workers but I think there is a good chance that many of those will be reemployed and for those that are not we have offered the assistance I have previously mentioned.”

On the day of Carillion’s collapse, the joint venture firms indicated that the announcement leaves a financial hole of £40-80m in the AWPR project.

Galliford Try said: “The terms of the contract are such that the remaining joint venture members, Balfour Beatty and Galliford Try, are obliged to complete the contract.  Our current estimate of the additional cash contribution outstanding from Carillion to complete the project is £60-80m, of which any shortfall will be funded equally between the joint venture members. The companies will discuss the position urgently with the official receiver of Carillion and Transport Scotland, to minimise any impact on the project.”

Mr Brown had said the Scottish Government’s Partnership Action for Continuing Employment (PACE), which helps people facing redundancy, would be available for those under threat.

He said PACE would also be available if anyone should lose defence jobs.

Gillian Martin MSP said: “Our first thoughts when businesses face such serious difficulties should always be for those who may be facing uncertainty over their jobs and their future, and it was encouraging to see parliament united in support of them today.

“I am grateful to the cabinet secretary for the support being made available both to Carillion employees and to subcontractors who may have concerns at this time.

“Early confirmation from the other partners in the Aberdeen Roads consortium that they intend to press ahead and deliver the AWPR contract will be hugely reassuring for my constituents. I know people and businesses across the North East are looking forward to the opening of the much-needed £750 million new route this year, and I will be engaging with the Scottish Government and Transport Scotland going forward to ensure that remains on schedule.”

Meanwhile, the Scottish  Government has set up helplines for anyone who may be affected by the failure of the construction firm.

Scottish companies affected by the Carillion insolvency can call Scottish Enterprise on 0300 013 3385 or register their details here.

The redundancy helpline operated by Skills Development Scotland is 0800 917 8000, with help also available here.

It was also announced today that banks and government were working together to mitigate the effects of Carillion’s collapse on businesses within the supply chain.

Skanska to shed 3,000 jobs as part of ‘comprehensive restructure’

Skanska has revealed it is to cut around 3,000 jobs across its global operations as part of restructuring plans to improve profitability.

The Swedish group said this morning that the comprehensive restructuring, which follows a strategic review initiated in autumn 2017, will involve quitting the US power sector and focusing on its core business in the UK.

The move follows “unsatisfactory performance” across several construction units in Europe, outside of the Nordic regions, and a slowdown in European infrastructure development (PPP).

The cost of starting the restructuring process to improve profitability has impacted Skanska’s year-end results. The review and following changes have resulted in a SEK1.1 billion (£99 million) charge in the fourth quarter and will cost SEK600m in 2018. Operating income for full-year 2017 is expected to be about SEK5.3bn.

In a trading update the group said: “In order to improve profitability Skanska will reduce the size of unprofitable business units and increase focus on cost control and risk management. Skanska will also make a number of organizational and leadership changes.

“Due to the unsatisfactory performance of several construction units Skanska will take the following actions: restructure the construction operations in Poland, leave the power sector in the USA, focus on the core business in the UK and continue to adapt to tougher market conditions in the Czech Republic.”

Skanska will reduce the size of unprofitable business units and increase its focus on cost control and risk management. The company will also make a number of organisational and leadership changes.

In residential and commercial property development, opportunities and growth ambitions remain, said Skanska.

However, due to a thin project pipeline in Europe, infrastructure development will now mainly focus on the opportunities in the USA.

Interserve’s financial health ‘being closely monitored’ by UK government

Shares in the construction and services firm Interserve fell this morning amid reports that its financial health is under special scrutiny from the UK Cabinet Office.

Stock was down as much as 15% in early trading on the London Stock Exchange after the Financial Times said a small team had been put together to keep an eye on the outsourcing specialist’s financial health.

The firm has been suffering from problem waste-to-energy contracts and, following a series of profit warnings in which the Board admitted to “a realistic prospect” of the group breaching its financial covenants with lending banks.

Last month it secured additional short-term funding to ease off its immediate financial troubles last month until March 31 at least.

Interserve is involved in a three-year restructuring programme launched by new management in October aimed at improving efficiency, its procurement process and simplifying the business.

On Wednesday, the Financial Times reported that the Cabinet Office was monitoring Interserve.

In response, Interserve said: “Last week we announced that we expect our 2017 performance to be in-line with expectations outlined in October and that our transformation plan is expected to deliver £40m-£50m benefit by 2020.”

It said it expected its 2018 operating profit to be “ahead of current market expectations and we continue to have constructive discussions with lenders over longer-term funding”.

The UK government has said it does not believe any of its major suppliers are in a similar position to stricken contractor Carillion which entered liquidation on Monday after racking up debt and pensions burdens of around £1.5 billion.

The Cabinet Office said: “We monitor the financial health of all of our strategic suppliers, including Interserve.

“We are in regular discussions with all these companies regarding their financial position. We do not believe that any of our strategic suppliers are in a comparable position to Carillion.”

Edinburgh Architectural Association opens call for 2018 award entries

The Carnegie Library and Galleries in Dunfermline

Calls for entry are now open for the prestigious annual Edinburgh Architectural Association (EAA) awards.

The awards showcase and celebrate the very best architecture in the chapter area and beyond, that enhance the built environment and people’s lives, regardless of size, form or budget.

In 2017 the format of the awards was changed to now enable all entries built within the chapter area, small or large, to become eligible for the highest accolade of Building Of The Year.

Richard Murphy Architects’ “beautifully crafted” Dunfermline Carnegie Library & Galleries took home the headline award at last year’s event.

The awards are also open to chartered architects working in other areas of the UK, who have completed projects within the chapter area.

Listed entries will be displayed and the winners will be announced and presented with their awards at a special presentation event in May. An exhibition of all shortlisted entries will be held in the RIAS Joyce Deans Room at 15 Rutland Square in the run up to the awards event.

Entries are invited for the following award categories:

  • Large Project
  • Small Project
  • Regeneration/ Conservation
  • Wood Award
  • EAA Ambassador

For more information and how to enter please visit eaa.org.uk.

Closing date for entries is January 31 at 4pm.

Planning bid for 43 homes on former Dundee school site

Abertay Housing Association has unveiled proposals to deliver 43 new homes on the former site of a primary school in Dundee.

Detailed plans submitted to Dundee City Council’s planning department indicate that the homes, situated at the former Charleston Primary School on South Road, will be a mix of terraced, semi-detached and detached homes with two or three bedrooms.

There will also be cottage flats with ground-floor wheelchair provision, to ensure that those with additional needs are adequately supported.

Designed by Oliver and Robb Architects, the homes will be developed by CCG Scotland should the project receive the green light.

Staff from Abertay Housing Association held a consultation on the latest plans in November last year and said the proposals had been warmly received.

In a report included with the application, the firm said the new homes would be a good fit for the area due to its proximity to Charleston Community Centre and nearby shops and schools.

The report reads: “The development will provide 43 affordable dwellings of differing size and needs suitable for a varying demographic.

“The close relationship of community centre, library, shops, play areas and primary school all increase and justify the sustainability of the proposal.

“The proposals were met positively, with no objections raised by any visitors. The community generally welcomed the redevelopment of the site.”

Charleston Primary School was demolished after pupils were relocated to the new Camperdown campus in 2013.

Contractors sought for Lews Castle grounds works

Lews Castle

Contractors are being sought for the first phase of the Lews Castle Grounds Regeneration Project.

Tender invitations for the works have been published on the Public Contracts Scotland portal with a return date of February 12.  An information day and site visit for potential contractors will take place on January 24, from 11am at the Woodlands Café in the Lews Castle Grounds.

The initial phase of capital works has a total value of almost £2 million and work is planned to start in the Spring of 2018.  The works are being tendered as two contracts with the larger contract (Buildings and Structures) comprising two lots in order to provide flexibility for interested contractors.

The Buildings lot will focus on the repair and restoration the Porters Lodge and the Boatman’s Tower – two important historic buildings needing comprehensive repair to give them a new lease of life.

The Structures lot includes work to the Castle terrace, steps and Bastion wall, the former private gardens, the castellated seawall and historic bridges.  The Civils contract includes drainage works in the former private gardens and on the Castle Green and works to paths.

On completion of the first phase of the project, further phases of work will follow including the restoration of the soft landscaping and plantings in the vicinity of Lews Castle.

Funding for the project is coming from the Heritage Lottery Fund, Stornoway Trust, Comhairle nan Eilean Siar and Historic Environment Scotland.  The project will complement the recently restored Lews Castle which also received significant Lottery funding.

Parliamentary call for CMS Window Systems

CMS Window Systems has shared its business experience and insights at the highest level after being invited to a special SME Parliamentary Reception in London organised by the UK government’s Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS).

The Glasgow-based company was represented at the exclusive event at Portcullis House by its chief operating officer, David Ritchie.

Mr Ritchie was invited to be part of a panel chaired by the Federation of Small Businesses director of policy, Martin McTague, to discuss how SMEs can innovate and be more productive, and discuss the challenges to SME growth and scaling, and what government, the public and private sector is doing or can do to help.

According to BEIS, the SME Parliamentary Reception was arranged to help build networks amongst MPs, ministers, influential business leaders and SMEs, with the opportunity for views to be shared to help shape government policy that enables small business growth. The invitation to attend is the latest high profile recognition for CMS Window Systems, who were awarded a Queen’s Award for Enterprise in 2017 and continue to be one of Scotland’s fastest growing manufacturing businesses.

Commenting on the SME Parliamentary Reception, David Ritchie said: “We were delighted to be invited to join this important event and discussion because of how crucial it is that policyholders and businesses work closely together for the UK economy to prosper. I really enjoyed the lively debate and very much hope that the contributions made by everyone representing the SME sector will be useful to policymakers.”

Charity receives funding boost from Mactaggart & Mickel Homes

Edinburgh and Midlothian charity Home Link Family Support has received a donation of £1,000 from housebuilder Mactaggart & Mickel Homes’ Building Communities Fund.

Home Link Family Support provides help to struggling families with young children who are not coping for a variety of reasons including poverty, disadvantage and family breakdown in Edinburgh and Midlothian. The services provided by the organisation include in-home support to families, counselling and antenatal support to women at risk.

The much-needed donation will go towards the Young Parents Service Midlothian, which provides specialised support to help young parents and families access services, build confidence in themselves, and improve interaction between parents and their children.

Mactaggart & Mickel Homes has a long history of supporting good causes. The Building Communities Fund was established to enhance the company’s ongoing efforts to help organisations and projects which enhance the lives of people within their local communities.

The fund is open throughout the year to applications from charities, community groups, sports teams and schools within a five mile radius of any Mactaggart & Mickel Homes development under construction, including Millerhill at Shawfair in Midlothian.

Applications for funding are assessed and awarded by a cross section of Mactaggart & Mickel employees.

Joanne Casey, director at Mactaggart & Mickel Homes, said: “The work that Home Link Family Support does has struck a chord with us all.  Young people and their children deserve every opportunity get the best start in life so that they and their family can succeed and thrive and it’s a privilege for us to be able to add our assistance.”

Paula Swanston for Home Link Family Support, added: “This grant from Mactaggart & Mickel Homes is wonderful news for struggling families with young children. Young parents may be struggling to cope for a variety of reasons but through dedicated volunteer support which comes to them in their homes, families can go on to thrive and children have a better start in life.”

For more information on the fund and to make an application visit www.macmic.co.uk/BCF.

Teams announced for Business Fives Construction, Housing & Property events

The teams participating in the Construction, Housing & Property qualifying events for a business five-a-side tournament have been announced, with time still available for companies to get involved.

Supported by Scottish Construction Now, Scottish Housing News and the Scottish Property Federation the heats will run on January 23 and 30 in Edinburgh and Glasgow respectively.

Business Fives, the five-a-side contest for football-loving firms, is now entering its fourth season as the winter season takes in four Scottish cities for the first time – Edinburgh, Glasgow, Aberdeen and Dundee – with teams competing for a place in the grand final in Glasgow on March 14.

Building on its year-on-year success since launching in 2016, Business Fives has worked with more than 300 firms and raised over £30,000 for charities.

Like the summer season, tournament organisers have committed to donating 10% of all its revenue to charity with the winning team securing a bumper donation for their charity of choice.

Business Fives boasts some famous ex-players and sporting celebrities as ambassadors including footballer turned businessman Lee Mair, ex-Celtic star Andy Walker, Rangers legend Ally Dawson, Hearts legend Gary Mackay, BBC Pundit Tam McManus along with TV presenter David Tanner.

Tournament founder and Business Fives managing director, John McClarey, – who also organised a highly-successful inaugural Business Fours golf tournament earlier in the year – said it’s a great opportunity for businesses to bond with colleagues outside of the office, get fit and raise money for charity.

Details of the two events covering the Construction, Housing & Property sectors and the firms are involved to date are as follows:

Edinburgh Construction, Housing & Property Heat

Tuesday 23rd January – World of Football, Edinburgh

Companies involved: Dunedin Canmore, GVA, Michael Laird Architects, Savills, Capital City Electrical, Link Group, Thomson Gray, Weslo HM, Comprehensive Design Architects

Glasgow Construction, Housing & Property Heat

Tuesday 30th January – SoccerWorld, Glasgow

Companies involved: Muir Construction, BTO Solicitors, Tri-Fix, Story Contracting, Brodies, Multiplex, Business Moves Group, Dougall Baillie Associates, AMCO, McCarthy & Stone