Revisiting NW Construction Awards: Diversity and equality

North West Regional Construction Awards 2011Continuing our series looking at winners from the 2010 North West Regional Construction Awards in the build-up to this year's ceremony in May, we look at Liverpool Housing Trust, winner in the equality and diversity category.

The area of Equality and Diversity has long been recognised as an important area that needs to be addressed in the UK construction industry. In real terms, diversity-based percentiles have remained relatively unchanged, since the early 1990s; consisting of between just 10% to 12% of women and 2% to 4% of black and minority ethnics (BME). This low number of women in the UK construction industry lies in stark contrast with the current all-industry employment standard of 46% for women and 8% for BMEs ConstructionSkills, 2008.

Liverpool Housing Trust, part of the Vicinity Group, has been providing affordable homes on Merseyside since 1965 and now owns almost 10,000 properties. Around 75% of the homes are in Liverpool, but it also provides housing in Halton, Knowsley, St Helens, Wirral, Sefton and Warrington.

Following their annual contractor appraisals carried out by LHT with its supply chain, equality and diversity was highlighted as the area needing most improvement. As a response, LHT developed the Think RED Project, aimed at front line contracting and LHT staff to raise awareness of Respect, Equality and Diversity.

The project developed a toolkit of training activities based around equality and diversity, including translation books detailing key phrases in more than 10 languages, a DVD and handbook and breakfast training sessions for contractors, and an interactive training day with consultancy drama group Afta Thought.

The training day considered the most appropriate medium to engage with contractors and drama was used to capture real-life scenarios helping to develop a proactive approach for contractors and ensure an ongoing commitment to equality and diversity. One customer from the Islamic community talked of her despair at the apparent lack of knowledge and respect shown to her by contractors, which made a real impact and helped to improve the way contractors looked to work in the future.

Despite initial reservations about the initiative, particularly over the drama element, attendees admitted to being pleasantly surprised at the success of the event. Feedback was positive and from 106 surveys completed after the session, 98% rated the event as either good or very good; 97% rated the level of information as either good or very good; 96% of respondents found the event very or fairly informative and 97% felt the event would help to improve the service they provide to tenants. The Think RED Project was the first time LHT had engaged with front-line contracting staff on such a large scale. It gave LHT a chance to consult directly with operatives and the feedback led to a goodie bag being distributed, which included a dustpan and brush, ID holder and shoe protectors, as customers wanted contractors to leave houses tidy after they had completed their work.

LHT also worked with a number of key agencies in order to deliver the Think RED Project, including Age Concern; The Richmond Fellowship; Construction Skills; LHT Housing and Support Team and the Somali Service. All provided information, advice and material for the toolkit and attended the training day.

Due to the positive response to the training day, the event has been rolled out to other Vicinity staff as part of their equality and diversity-training programme.

The comprehensive toolkit has generated interest among other housing associations and as a result, has raised LHT's profile as a leader in equality and diversity training.

  • The black-tie awards ceremony and dinner will take place on Thursday 26 May 2011 at Chester Racecourse. Please email Caroline Ellison on or call 0161 448 2424. For further information about sponsorship opportunities please contact Emma Looskin on or on 0161 295 5076.

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