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HS2 tunnel site opens doors to launch national drive to get young people into construction

Published: November 2, 2022

Today HS2 Ltd hosted Build UK on a busy construction site in Warwickshire for the national launch of ‘Open Doors 2023’, which takes young people and those looking for a change of career behind the site hoardings to experience construction first-hand.

The launch was held at HS2’s Long Itchington Wood Tunnel north portal site near Leamington Spa and was attended by over 25 young people from Walsall and Warwickshire Colleges. The site is managed by HS2’s contractor Balfour Beatty VINCI (BBV) and is where the tunnel boring machine ‘Dorothy’ is being prepared to begin the second bore of the one-mile twin bore tunnel under an ancient woodland.

HS2 has partnered with Build UK – the leading representative organisation for the UK construction industry – to offer a number of construction sites for next year’s Open Doors event, which will run across the country from Monday 13 – Saturday 18 March 2023.

A wide range of organisations will be taking part, offering site visits across the UK, with projects ranging from tunnels to skyscrapers, as well as offices, factories and other facilities to demonstrate the off-site roles across the sector.

At the launch, the young people heard from Neil Johnson – BBV’s Tunnels Delivery Director, and Doug Barnett – HS2’s Senior Project Manager, who talked about the massive tunnelling operation currently taking place on the site. They also learned about the types of careers available on HS2, which is currently supporting nearly 30,000 jobs, including over 950 apprentices.

HS2’s Senior Project Manager for Long Itchington Wood Tunnel, Doug Barnett said:

Open Doors is a fantastic initiative and HS2 is delighted to be partnering with Build UK to launch next year’s event. It was great to share my own experience of working in the construction sector with the students on site today, some of whom are already starting their training on construction-related courses. They were very enthusiastic about their first-hand experience of one of HS2’s largest construction sites, and the opportunity to gain unique insight from some of the people working on the project.

Suzannah Nichol MBE, Chief Executive of Build UK said:

Open Doors offers young people and others an experience they wouldn’t usually have, and interest is always high. Reading a job description on a website is one thing, but there is nothing like seeing a busy construction site in action or a new building close to completion.

It’s a unique opportunity to spend some time on site, see what goes on and maybe even see a job you would like to do, and we are really excited to be working with HS2 to showcase the positive impact of construction, along with the diverse range of people and occupations that come together to bring a project to life.

Shilpi Akbar, Head of Stakeholder and Communities at Balfour Beatty VINCI said:

Open Doors provides a unique opportunity to inspire young people to consider a career in the construction and infrastructure sector and showcase the extensive opportunities available.

As our HS2 project continues to ramp up, it has never been more important for us to work alongside local schools and colleges across the region, opening our doors to host local young people on site for the launch of this important initiative.

During the week-long programme of events next March, visitors will get a unique insight into a career in construction by going behind the site hoardings to experience the fantastic range of opportunities available in construction. In addition to familiar site-based construction roles, many of the positions available are based externally, with companies requiring a back-office support network, front-of-house sales teams, and cutting-edge technical roles.

With construction needing to recruit over 53,000 new entrants every year for the next five years to maintain output, attracting young people to consider a career in the industry is essential. The event aims to challenge perceptions and encourage young people and those looking for a change of career to consider construction, Open Doors highlights the diverse range of opportunities available, including thousands of apprenticeship places.

Over 10 sites are already registered and available for visitors to explore throughout Open Doors Week. New sites will continue to be added until the end of February and will be available to book via the Open Doors website.

Delivered by Build UK in partnership with the Construction Industry Training Board (CITB), Open Doors is supported by industry partners the Considerate Constructors Scheme (CCS), Construction Skills Certification Scheme (CSCS), Go Construct, HS2 and Skylapse Media, and community partners the Careers & Enterprise Company (CEC) and the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP).

Organisations interested in opening a site to the public can email [email protected] to find out more. Groups and individuals interested in visiting a site can book from 9 January 2023, but large groups should make contact early through the website.