It was difficult not to get caught up in London 2012 fever and I was particularly pleased to see construction feature so highly.
After all, it is our industry which made it all possible. From the magnificent Olympic venues, the spectacular opening ceremony with its celebration of Brunel and Thomas Hetherick’s breath taking cauldron; it has been a dazzling display of everything Britain’s construction industry can achieve and be proud of.
London surpassed all our expectations as a host city and the regeneration of the park area in Stratford, on time and (albeit revised) budget, is a triumph for our industry. We have seen Zaha Hadid’s aquatic centre serving its purpose perfectly, Hopkins Architect’s velodrome proved a wonderful backdrop for some spectacular British sporting achievement and the Populous designed Olympic Stadium – the most sustainable ever built for an Olympic Games – lived up to the design brief being both innovative and flexible.
Along with Kenneth Branagh’s depiction of Isambard Kingdom Brunel at the Opening ceremony, which was a fantastic acknowledgment of the importance of this industry; we also saw Sir Steve Redgrave running into the stadium with the flame for the spectacular finale of the opening ceremony flanked by 500 hard-hatted construction workers – men and women who represented those who had designed and built the Olympic park. Symbolically the Olympic flame was then passed on to seven young promising athletes, the future of British sport, who each lit a single tiny flame on the ground. Long stems then rose towards each other to form Thomas Hetherick’s beautiful cauldron.
However, amongst all the celebration, the question which kept coming back to me was ‘how are we passing on the flame to promising young people who want to work in construction?’ What will the Olympic legacy look like for our industry?
For me, it is about encouraging young people to think about the range of careers within construction and give them an insight into working in the industry. Construction Youth Trust has different programmes to help young people into construction, including mobile classrooms which go into deprived areas and help give young unemployed people a start in construction. We also run Budding Brunels which works with 6th form students to deliver a 3-day programme which provides site visits, presentations from industry professionals and visits to colleges and universities delivering construction related courses. For students who excel during the workshop, work placements are also available providing valuable experience that may be used to enhance UCAS applications and future employability. However, all participants stand to gain from this employer-led programme, which reaches students at a key decision making point in their academic and personal development. However, we need industry partners to be able to deliver more of the Budding Brunels courses. We need to work together to ensure our young people are aware of the industry and what it can offer.
We can’t rely on anyone but ourselves to deliver this legacy. It’s up to us to hand on the baton, or flame to the next generation of promising young people, the future of construction. We need to ensure that as an industry we don’t lose the momentum – we have had the perfect opportunity to showcase what can be achieved through the delivery of the Olympic Park, and now we need to build on it to inspire young people to be a part of it.