How construction companies are tackling skills shortages with Ban the Box

Read how companies such as Costain, Tideway and North Midland Construction are developing tailored approaches for directly recruiting ex-offenders from prisons 

The UK will need 158,000 additional construction workers to meet demand for infrastructure and housing in the next five years according to the CITB’s latest Construction Skills Network report. They say that right now, skills shortages are holding back important building work and this means construction companies need to urgently find ways to widen their talent pool.
Some of the biggest names in the sector, including Kier, Costain, Interserve and Saint-Gobain, are answering this call through removing barriers to recruitment for ex-offenders. Signing up to Business in the Community’s Ban the Box campaign, these companies are taking the first step to tap into the skills and talent of this vast and largely overlooked group of candidates.

The campaign asks companies to delete the tick box from application forms that asks about criminal convictions and, if necessary, to move this question to later in the recruitment process. It removes a key barrier to work for the 11 million people in the UK with a criminal conviction – allowing companies to signal that they are willing to consider ex-offenders through their mainstream recruitment processes. 

To date, the construction sector represents 14% of the 850,000 jobs covered by Ban the Box nationally, but with just 10 companies signed up so far, there’s huge potential for more construction employers to come on board.

Of those that have, many are going beyond changing their mainstream recruitment, to develop tailored approaches for directly recruit ex-offenders from prisons or through third sector partners. 

Costain’s C360 Partnership, for example, has provided full time employment on the Costain / Skanska Crossrail projects in roles including Community Relations Manager, Health and Safety and Quantity Surveying, as well as on apprenticeships. Approximately half of these recruits are educated to degree level with industry-specific qualifications or transferable skills. The scheme is also helping to increase gender diversity with women making up half of new recruits.

Tideway has committed to ensuring that 1 in every 100 employees working on the Thames Tideway Tunnel project is an ex-offender and North Midland Construction has set up a construction academy at HMP Ranby to train prisoners on the job on site, with real job prospects once they finish their time in custody.

Through removing barriers in the recruitment process, Ban the Box companies can develop workforces that are truly representative of the communities they work in.

For James York, Group Corporate Social Responsibility Manager at Costain, which signed up to Ban the Box in August 2017, businesses are losing out on the opportunity to tap into a pool of committed people, some very highly skilled, who want a chance to upskill, progress and have a fresh start. 

“Giving these people an opportunity to restart their careers reduces the rate of re-offending by up to 50%. They have something to contribute to society, and they’re being unfairly prevented from a second chance. It isn’t just our civic duty to give ex-offenders a fair chance of finding work, it makes total business sense for us and the wider UK economy,” he said. 

To help the construction sector through the process of hiring ex-offenders the Construction Industry Training Board (CITB) has worked with NACRO to produce a guide for employers outlining legal rights, responsibilities and best practice. 

There’s a growing realisation that the sector needs to deal with the skills shortage in a more creative way and think outside the box. 

See our five reasons to Ban the Box, access guides and sign up on our Ban the Box landing page.