Laing O'Rourke and ANTZ launch programme to support individuals facing multiple barriers to employment


As part of Laing O’Rourke’s UK social value strategy, which aims to deliver £2bn of social impact and enrich the lives of 2 million people by 2030, it has launched the Building Opportunities Programme to support individuals facing multiple barriers to employment.

The Building Opportunities Programme was initially piloted on Laing O’Rourke’s recently completed Abraham Moss Library and Leisure Centre Project in Manchester and will now be rolled out to projects around the UK, supporting three further cohorts of people into work. It is aimed at individuals with barriers to employment and is available to prison leavers, carers, veterans, and people with hidden and physical disabilities.

Laing O’Rourke worked with specialist social impact partner, ANTZ, its network partners and community groups over a ten-month period to design a programme that is truly industry leading. The Building Opportunities Programme takes a proactive approach to breaking down employment barriers, directly working with participants to help them identify their personal value and addressing head-on some of the issues that are affecting their ability to get back into work. It goes on to provide longer-term support and mentoring, recognising that not all participants are work-ready on completion of the programme. This long-term view represents a departure from most employability programmes, one that is more practical and person-centric.

The Building Opportunities Programme is set against the backdrop of a report* that reveals in April 2023, 3.8% of the UK’s economically active population was unemployed, with over a fifth (22.1%) being unemployed for more than 12 months and 13.4% unemployed for over two years.

The pilot programme focused on an area of Manchester with high unemployment levels. A group of 15 people undertook a three-week course that included time in real-life working environments, practical employability skills, health and wellbeing support and an insight into the range of roles available in construction with Laing O’Rourke and its supply chain partners.

All 15 participants that completed the course passed their Construction Skills Certification Scheme (CSCS) tests, and within a fortnight two participants secured jobs, and continue to remain in employment eight months later.

Participant in the programme, Ruben, says:

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“Laing O’Rourke’s programme - and the job I secured as a result - has changed my life. I can’t speak more highly of my experience so far and it goes to show that programmes like this really do work. I love my job and my employer, and I am learning lots each day.”

The programme recognises not all individuals will be work ready on completion and is designed to support individuals through ANTZ’ person centred support programmes. In addition to the programme itself, a local referral network was developed to identify individuals that would benefit from the programme.

Social value specialist for Laing O’Rourke, Lauren Murphy, drove both the design and delivery of the programme and said:

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“The Building Opportunities Programme is about how we as a business can be more proactive in delving into communities, helping to actively remove barriers and create supported pathways to employment. It represents a more progressive approach to delivering social value, which is person centred and removes KPI 'box ticking'.

“The people we’re supporting simply don’t have the same employment access as so many of us for a wide range of reasons. The confidence building and wellbeing elements of the programme are vital and designed to help participants overcome some of their primary employment barriers.

“The feedback we received at the end of the pilot programme was very inspiring – and quite emotional. We learned a lot from the first one which has helped us make further developments and will mean that we can embed the programme more widely as part of our standard social value offer.”

A further three cohorts will participate in the programme this year, partnering Laing O’Rourke projects in London and Oxford.

Commenting on its partnership with Laing O’Rourke, ANTZ CEO, Jen Pemberton says:

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“We are delighted to have partnered with Laing O’Rourke on such a groundbreaking approach, leading the way in shifting the dial to support local communities.

“This approach is the first of its kind to be embedded into a business within the construction industry, embracing ANTZ’ culture of business led and community driven social value delivery and impact. The programme reinforces ANTZ’ person centred and responsible framework approach which puts people at the heart of everything it does, creating an inclusive culture for all involved, and provides a template for how other organisations should move forward in regards to community impact.”