£30m transport hub lays foundations for stronger construction industry

Sam Gale

A key regeneration scheme in Lincoln will not only deliver significant benefits for the city’s business community, residents and visitors, but will also help to address the skills gap in the UK’s construction industry.

The Lincoln Transport Hub will see the city centre transformed with the construction of a new, state-of-the-art bus station, a 1,000 space multi-storey car park, retail units and a pedestrian plaza area connecting the new facilities with Lincoln Central Railway Station.

Contractor Willmott Dixon, which is delivering the £30m project, is working to ensure local people are benefitting from the scheme through an ongoing programme of on-site training and engagement with schools, universities and community outreach activities, working in partnership with the City of Lincoln Council.

Sam Gale, a 17-year-old construction student at Priory City of Lincoln Academy, is one of a number of students completing work placements with the Willmott Dixon team throughout their course.

He said: “We are learning about how a building site actually works and what it’s really like to work in construction – there’s so much more to it than we’re taught in the classroom, so this is a really valuable experience.

“During my time with the team here, I’ve learnt a lot about the different roles available and am now thinking about looking at construction management as a career; I’d previously wanted to become a joiner so it has really opened my eyes to other options”.

Nick Heath, operations director for Willmott Dixon, said: “As well as being a key regeneration scheme for Lincoln, the Transport Hub is acting as a training ground for a number of local young people who will be able to get hands-on experience of working on a construction site and learn more about the industry”.

Construction Management students from Nottingham Trent University will also use the scheme as part of their degree course as they are tasked with creating their own tender and design proposals using the initial brief put to Willmott Dixon. They will visit the site twice during the academic year.

Heath added: “We are very proud to be able to support the development of skills for young people not just in Lincoln, but also across the region, and the work we are doing at the Transport Hub allows us to do exactly that.

“There is a very real skills gap in the construction industry and by undertaking these important programmes with schools and universities, we are helping to build the foundations for the industry of tomorrow”.

It is not only local young people that Willmott Dixon is providing opportunities to through its work on the Lincoln Transport Hub. The contractor is also supporting a dedicated “returnship” programme for a former army mechanic who has experienced severe post-traumatic stress disorder.

The 52-year-old, who wishes to remain anonymous, has suffered from bi-polar disorder following his release from the Army and has struggled to return to his job as a health and safety advisor on highways projects.

Willmott Dixon is working with the former civil engineer on a phased return to work programme – offering him a part-time advisory position that allows him to utilise his extensive skills in the highways industry but without the pressure associated with a health and safety position.

He said: “I am currently working up to a 16 hour working week, but am taking it a week at a time and building up the time I’m spending on site by half an hour each week. I really struggled to manage stress when I came back to work, but this is the right sort of environment for me to be able to get back into part-time employment”.

David Reid is operations manager at Willmott Dixon and looks after the Lincoln Transport Hub. He said: “We didn’t have an available position, but it’s really important for us to make a difference in the communities in which we work, and by offering this returnship we are able to do that.

“He is a really useful advisor for us on site and we are able to tap into his vast knowledge of highways projects, and he is sound in the knowledge that there isn’t any real pressure on him here, which is exactly what he needs to get back into work.”

Willmott Dixon also allows one of its gate staff, another army veteran, two hours of paid time off during the week to visit a local military charity to aid his recovery from post-traumatic stress disorder.