Regional civils contractor Esh Construction has beaten multinational companies to win a third of the categories in this years’ Inspiring Change Awards.
The awards, run by the Civil Engineering Contractors Association (CECA), was set up to celebrate engineering organisations that promote a more inclusive culture in their workplaces.
Highways England executive director, commercial and procurement David Poole spoke at the event and said within the industry a culture of exclusion to those who were perceived to be different still existed. To combat this he said everyone needed to take a personal responsibility to break down the barriers.
“It shocked me and still shocks me now, that for a group of individuals who’ve all passed the same exams at school, the opportunities are vastly different if you’re white and male,” he said.
“I think we should step up, take responsibility for that and try and change it. So where do we start? We have to make it personal.”
The big winner of the night was North East based contractor Esh Construction. It took two awards for Inspiring Change in the Community and Inspiring Change in Schools.
Driven by its late chairman Brian Manning, the company runs its own in house apprenticeship programme and has committed to enroll 150 apprentices over a three year period. The scheme was launched in 2013 and it welcomed its 150th apprentice in 2016. Currently 9% of the 739 workforce is an apprentice.
Esh Construction regional managing director North East and Cumbria Stephen Wilkie said: “We’ve committed to an investment programme over the last three years with our apprentices programme. In 2016 we got our 150th apprentice and in 2017 we’re committing to do the same thing again. I think that speaks volumes of what we’re doing for a North Eastern business competing against multinationals.”
His colleague, head of business development Ross Markwell added: “For a region of the North East which is quite deprived in terms of local authority and central government funding, you have to diversify yourself to make yourself something different.
“We’ve been hit by declining industries such as steel, coal and ship building so we feel as a company you have to do something to drive and attract people into your organisation and into conduction to ensure you don’t have to be unemployed. We’ve won three awards in two years now for non-delivery, all while the company goes from strength to strength.”
The list of winners in full
Inspiring Change in the Workplace: Vinci Construction
Inspiring Change in the Community: Esh Construction
Inspiring Change in Education: Esh Construction
Inspiring Change Fairness, Inclusion & Respect Inspiration Award: Amanda McKay, Balfour Beatty
Inspiring Change SME Award: David Miller Architects
Inspiring Change Project Award: Carillion - Kier JV