Instilling equality in our communities

Davinia Venton, Partnerships Director, Partnerships South, Countryside, highlights the importance of creating jobs and employment in the development industry to reinstall equality in communities that are recovering from the pandemic.

The pandemic has had a significant impact on our communities exposing the disparity that exists in our society. With economic uncertainty rife, communities have faced numerous challenges including food poverty, poor mental health, barriers to education, unemployment and limited social care – to only name a few.

What was apparent at the very start of this pandemic was the dependency on our local communities but now ensuring equality amongst our communities is becoming increasingly important.

Key factors in achieving this are access to a good education, providing comprehensive career advice to school leavers, training, work experience and ultimately jobs. At Countryside, we recognise that the development industry can do more, and it is time to reinvigorate the traditional S106 commitments and look to offer work opportunities beyond construction. Whilst we can certainly attract talent to the construction sector, there is no reason why we cannot open doors for those with broader skills and interests.

Comprehensive research needs to be undertaken at the commencement of a development to understand the local requirements and then a strategy formulated based on local need and opportunity for both the delivery stage and long-term stewardship which looks to maximise job creation outcomes.

There needs to be a greater commitment to the measurement of local employment, training and support throughout the life of a regeneration scheme with the monitoring of commitments and analysis of whether desired outcomes are being achieved.

Working with our partners, including the local authorities, housing associations, design consultants and subcontractors, we seek to optimise the levels of training, work experience and employment for local residents. Collaboratively we can offer access to a wide range of careers from architecture, engineering, construction, planning, development to property management. We want to help residents overcome the entry barriers into these professions and provide mentoring to ease the transition into employment.

At Acton Gardens, our £1bn regeneration scheme in West London we are working with our partners Ealing Council and L&Q to facilitate job creation through our new model.  We are engaging with the new youth club, community centre, schools and colleges to provide opportunities and ensuring that outcomes are measured and analysed.

With the need to help communities recover from the pandemic we have a great opportunity to work with residents to provide training and employment in all areas of the development industry which will create a legacy far wider than the development itself.