Social Value is a fundamental part of Morgan Sindall Infrastructure’s operational values. It is entrenched in our Total Commitments through Enhancing Communities, brought to life every day, on every project, by our people, writes Joely Sockett, Social Values Advisor, Morgan Sindall.
We take individual and collective pride in the positive impact that we have on peoples’ lives, focusing on mitigating and obviating community risks and concerns around our construction activities. We believe that these positive impacts are an intrinsic part of making the industry an attractive place to work, as well as supporting the core objectives of our customers to improve social, economic and environmental wellbeing in communities.
Social Value requires us to reach out and collaborate within the communities in which we work, to ensure we are creating a positive impact and securing a positive legacy beyond our construction activities. Our dedicated Social Value Advisors, Skills Managers and Stakeholder Managers regularly connect with communities. They liaise with road users, delivering educational engagement sessions at schools and colleges, offer work experience and other community initiatives. As you can imagine, along with the rest of the UK, this was quickly put on pause due to lock-down and social distancing measures enforced by COVID-19.
Our delivery teams in our Highways division were quickly considered by Government as Key Workers, this meant that despite many areas of the UK ‘locking down’, we were asked to deliver business as usual on certain sites. Our teams across our projects innovated, created and collaborated to ensure they could continue works effectively and safely, enabling most of our projects were able to continue with huge success.
Due to the success of the delivery teams, the Social Value teams could not let an essential part of our business become a fall out of COVID-19. We faced challenges due to schools not being open, and the community and colleagues at home, spread across the country. However, Social Value has always thrived on creativity, challenging the status quo and innovation, as such we were able to quickly adapt to the ‘new normal’.
The first challenge was how we could engage with school children and deliver STEM sessions and activities, many of our projects had events booked in at local schools and we didn’t want to cancel these completely. One of our Social Value Advisors and former school teacher, Kate Hamilton, came up with the idea of creating an Activity Book containing adapted versions of the sessions we would have delivered face to face. The team across Morgan Sindall Infrastructure worked extremely hard to transform existing activities and create new ones that can be completed at home, with little resource (available at home) and easily understood by students of Key Stage 1and 2 age. These cards also directly relate to careers within the industry and these are clearly outlined on each card, this was included as it aligns with the Gatsby Benchmarks and gives a clear indication of the relevance of the task to the young people.
Ordinarily, the start of summer brings work experience candidates across the company. Students are encouraged by schools within term time and some utilise the summer holidays to learn more about the construction industry. Many of our projects had work experience weeks lined up, however due to social distancing measures and to ensure everyone’s safety these could no longer be delivered on site. Determined to ensure that the students were still able to gain a taste of the industry and secure valuable work experience, Morgan Sindall Infrastructure launched a brand-new digital work experience platform. The week long virtual work experience, in collaboration with Speakers For Schools, saw students use Google Classroom and take part in a number of digital challenges and tasks, before presenting a final project to the project team. So far, we have had 3 cohorts across our projects, students aged 14-19 years and a tailored programme for care-leavers in Southampton. The work experience has been a resounding success for the students, teachers and project staff.
COVID-19 could have been a stumbling block for our Social Value initiatives, but instead it has allowed us to create and deliver insightful and meaningful engagement. We are keen to continue our virtual experiences, as we have seen the benefits and successes. Morgan Sindall Infrastructure are passionate about challenging the status quo, and the current situation has encouraged us to take this to the next level. We will continue to adapt and develop due to the positive outcomes this has had, not only on the communities in which we work, but on us as a business.
This article was first published by Safer Highways