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Luton Borough Council

26/08/2020 - Life-changing skills secured on the Luton DART

A pioneering joint venture from Luton Council, its airport company and Volker Fitzpatrick-Kier (VFK) to promote skills development has concluded.

It has resulted in more than 720 people in the area receiving essential training to help them enter the construction industry.

The Construction Skills Hub was created in November 2018 on the primary works site of the Luton DART, the fast transit scheme being built by London Luton Airport Ltd (LLAL). It will provide seamless connections between Parkway Station and the airport terminal in under four minutes.

Since then VFK, the Luton DART’s main contractor, has developed and delivered a series of construction-specific training programmes to a variety of college students, career changers and others who have either been unemployed or out of education.

More than 300 of the delegates were attracted from traditionally under-represented groups, with referrals secured from partners including the council’s Passport to Employment programme, homelessness charity Noah, Luton Youth Offending Service, JobCentre Plus and the Avenue Centre for Education.

In addition, VFK created more than 80 full-time new jobs on the DART for local apprentices, graduates and other new entrants.

Cllr Andy Malcolm, chair of LLAL, said the scheme’s focus is now switching to supporting even more of the trainees into permanent positions.

He said: “Improving people’s lives in Luton is our main aim in our stewardship of London Luton Airport. In all of our development schemes across the town we look for innovative ways to make sure that our communities directly benefit. Our hope is that the iconic Luton DART continues to inspire people to actively consider a career in construction in Luton.”

There have been some life-changing stories to emerge as a result.

Glen was being supported by the homelessness charity Noah and had lost confidence. He had no experience of the construction industry and was looking for direction. Referred to the hub, he successfully completed the introductory training and was offered the chance to achieve a trained plant operator qualification. VFK further introduced him to a sub-contractor, who offered Glen a permanent role. He has now been working on DART since March 2019, and earned an award from the project in recognition of his commitment.

Cllr Aslam Khan, Luton Council’s portfolio holder for skills and employability, said: “We are absolutely delighted to have been so successful with this programme which has provided genuine life-changing opportunities and a route to prosperity for hundreds of local people.

“Luton is enjoying massive transformation, with major regeneration and housing schemes offering a wide range of jobs in the construction industry, and we are on an important journey aimed at ensuring no-one in the town is living in poverty by 2040.

“Our commitment has been to ensure that local people get the right support and skills to benefit from the opportunities, and align training with the needs of local construction employers. Stories such as Glen’s are an inspiration to us all.”

One of 23 national on-site learning hubs, the Luton Skills Hub was set up with a £1m grant from the  Construction Skills Fund (CSF), funded by the Department for Education and administered by the CITB, bringing together employers and public funding to give high-quality, on-site work experience to learners from many different backgrounds.

A spokesman for CITB said: “One of the factors in choosing Luton as one of the original CSF learning hubs was because the town boasts a huge range of significant construction work, including infrastructure and housing, and clearly has a need for skilled construction workers. This has been an exciting opportunity for local people seeking opportunities to join the sector and employers who are benefiting from an increase in skilled workers produced by this initiative.”

Olivia Perkins, VolkerFitzpatrick-Kier senior project manager, said: “It has been a privilege for our joint venture to invest in Luton and at the same time help with efforts to recruit the 400,000 people a year the construction industry needs.

“We have exceptionally talented people working in our business who have helped deliver large infrastructure projects across the country, and it has been fantastic to be able to pass these skills on to others wanting to enter the profession.”
© 2020 Luton Council, Town Hall, Luton LU1 2BQ