One of the sectors identified by Cumbria Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) for growth and development is 'transport, infrastructure and connectivity'. According to the Cumbria Observatory construction is the fourth largest employer in Cumbria, with over two thousand people working within the industry.  

In West Cumbria large scale projects have already been pegged such as West Coast Mining and Nu Gen's Moorside nuclear plant, as well as housing and road developments. 

During a breakfast networking event in Maryportorganised by Kate Harper from Business Connect, I struck up a conversation with Lesley Dixon from Cumbria Housing Partners (CHP), we discussed the work we do at Inspira with unemployed adults and the many ways in which we support them on their journey back into employment. CHP themselves work in the social housing sector and as part of adding social value, they are involved in creating jobs and apprenticeships for those living in landlord homes. 

Cumbria Housing Partners work with Cumbria Community Foundation, who have set up a donor advised fund to provide grants to community and voluntary organisations running projects aimed at improving people’s employability or education. Part of the criteria for consideration are activities which provide advice and guidance, support and engage people in their local community – a natural fit for Inspira. 

With construction a key employment sector in West Cumbria, and social housing and creating jobs a core focus for CHP – a pre-employment programme for construction in Allerdale and Copeland was created. Utilising Inspira's experience of combining hands on, vocational training with classroom based employability skills workshops - a bid was developed 

Within the classroom: candidates were assessed to understand their strengths and weaknesses, which resulted in a skills action plan being developed, candidate’s CVs were updated, interview skills honed and the candidates were also supported in understanding how to search for jobs, in theory and practice  

The vocational element was built around a 'Health and Safety in Construction' course, followed by a Construction Skills Certification Scheme which enables candidates to work safely on a construction site.  Further to this, training was given which led to T1 and 2 certificates, allowing those qualified to work as part of highways and road works teams thereby further increasing their chances of employment.    

In January, the first course ran in Workington with fourteen local unemployed people attending. The second took place in Whitehaven during March with fifteen people attending. The course was quite intensive and lasted fifteen full days. Despite this, we received excellent feed back from customers with all attendees gaining a worthwhile experience.  

As part of the pre-employment programme, employers with live vacancies were identified including TSO LabouringStreet Wise and Best Connections. Each of these employers now employ participants from the course.   

To date, of the 29 people who have completed the pre-employment programmesix have gone into employment and a further ten have registered with various agencies. The participants who have successfully found work were also supported with Personal Protection Equipment (PPE). Inspira continues to support the reminder with applications and job searches.    

Inspira would like to thank Cumbria Housing Partners and Cumbria Foundation for funding 10K of this project.