Case study one - Laing O’Rourke

Laing O’Rourke’s 2025 mission will see the business secure its position as the recognised leader for innovation and excellence in the construction industry.

Its long-standing commitment to equality, diversity and inclusion ensures that it maintains the highest standards of employment practice, with its aim to employ a workforce that reflects the diverse society in which we live and work.

The construction industry is currently facing a skills shortage and is perceived as unattractive to new recruits. This is particularly relevant among school and college leavers, graduates and women.

Laing O’Rourke’s inclusive recruitment strategy aims to attract, develop and retain the best people. It strives to provide a work environment that inspires people to give their best and realise their full potential. Laing O’Rourke seeks to engage and inspire creative, passionate people, demonstrating a genuine commitment to learning and career development who share its enthusiasm and passion for engineering enterprise.

It is Laing O’Rourke’s aim to meet sector challenges head on and its diversity and inclusion approach to recruitment is embedded within its organisational strategy and plans such as its Global Code of Conduct and People Policy. As a learning organisation, it works with and learns from various groups such as Stonewall and the Business Disability forum to enable it to continually improve its working practices and support people with specific diversity characteristics. 

What did they do?

This case study highlights efforts associated with early talent attraction, through pre-employment activities and educational engagement, creating the pipeline and setting the foundation to a future diverse workforce, to its early careers engagement routes.

Laing O’Rourke’s pre-employment activities include:

  • A summer and industrial placement programme, which is sponsored by Sarah Williamson FREng, the Construction Engineering Leader at Hinkley Point C. The programme attracted 67 people from a range of universities and over a quarter were women. It is open to all undergraduates and gives work experience in combination with a requirement to complete a shared project;  last year’s projects included key themes around diversity, inclusion, mental health and wellbeing.
  • It has adopted six Design Engineer Construct! (DEC!) schools. The Class of Your Own DEC! programme engages secondary school students in a project-based accredited learning programme related to the built environment. One of the schools supported by Laing O’Rourke specialises in education for boys with learning and language difficulties. Two are all girls’ grammar schools, which increases early engagement and interest by giving people practical experiences of the breadth of career opportunities available in the sector and the exciting projects being delivered. In 2017, Laing O’Rourke welcomed two DEC! students onto its School and College Leaver Programme, demonstrating the value of cultivating an early talent pipeline.  Many others joined the industry via other routes  such as university or other employers.

Each of Laing O’Rourke’s pre-employment and educational activities is designed to give the opportunity to feed into its inclusive early careers employment routes:

  • Apprenticeship+
  • School and College Leaver Programme
  • Graduate Development Programme

Improving social mobility through Apprenticeship+

Laing O’Rourke projects showcase construction and engineering, so it is appropriate that it uses them to illustrate that apprenticeship opportunities are available to people across all socio-economic groups.

In 2017, its early talent team used heat maps to identify areas of deprivation and low employment in Manchester and Edinburgh, where Laing O’Rourke is currently delivering a significant proportion of the Manchester Airport Transformation Programme and the retail-led Edinburgh St James project. It then strategically placed adverts on buses servicing these areas to introduce the programmes to local communities in support of social mobility.

Addressing stereotypes through the School and College Leaver Programme

The School and College Leaver Programme is a five-year sponsored degree programme where students combine academic learning with employment. The attraction campaign involves communicating with pupils as well as providing parents, carers and schools the information they need to support informed career advice.

To support careers advice in schools and colleges Laing O’Rourke has, since 2015, published the early talent brochure and parent and  teacher guidance booklet annually, which introduce all its programmes. Each year it distributes them electronically to over 3,000 schools. In 2017, these were accompanied by job cards demystifying 23 different technical and trade roles. The cards aim to help educate children in the breadth of careers available, making the construction industry more accessible.

Taking the message to events outside of the classroom, Laing O’Rourke has attended What Career Live?and Skills London. Both events have dedicated STEM areas and attract students aged over 13 from schools across London’s boroughs and communities.

Laing O’Rourke’s sustainability representatives lead on attracting candidates for its School and College Leaver Programme through local outreach, via housing associations, schools and charities, developing activity that will continue to support the local community long after the project is complete.

The marketing material for the School and College Leaver Programme is specifically designed to show the diversity of its early talent participants and its modern methods of construction delivery environment, helping to change the often-held perception by parents and carers that the industry is unsafe and low-skilled.

Summer and Industrial Placement and Graduate Development Programme

Laing O’Rourke’s Summer and Industrial Placement (SIP) programme offers opportunities to undergraduates to participate in either a summer or full-year industrial placement. This increases students’ employability at graduation through development of both technical and transferable workplace skills. Those who participated in the scheme saw a conversation rate of 87% into employment with Laing O’Rourke.

The programme is designed to be inclusive and accessible to all students from any university with the eligibility to work in the UK. It is a feeder route to the Graduate Development Programme. Laing O’Rourke seeks to attract people to all engineering disciplines, as well as to its other functions such as commercial and planning.

Laing O’Rourke advertises the SIP and Graduate Development Programme in four key graduate publications, each selected for their wide-reaching geographical coverage and readership figures.

In addition to targeted marketing, it attends several university careers fairs, specifically those offering engineering and STEM focused qualifications with graduate cohorts that are rich in diversity, made up of individuals from different backgrounds, social groups and with varied life experiences.

A specific strategy employed to attract women into engineering is the support Laing O’Rourke gives at the two annual Future Female Engineer events, which are attended by over 150 female undergraduates along with nine other engineering organisations.

Since 2016 Laing O’Rourke, as part of the Building Equality group, attended the National Student Pride event demonstrating open support for people within the LGBT+ community.

What was the impact?

The School and College Leaver Programme, launched in 2011, had no women participating for the first three years. Since 2014,  participation of women has grown, with women making up 27% of the 2017 intake.

On average, 18% of the Graduate Development Programme’s hires are women each year.

Were there any challenges?

The construction industry is an exciting, technology-driven environment but still suffers from misconceptions that it is low-skilled and unsafe. Perceived barriers to entry are the biggest challenge facing the industry as there continues to be a stigma around apprenticeships, which Laing O’Rourke has been working hard to address. Low skills image and perception can only be solved if advocacy from parents, carers and teachers is combined with careers advisors who can share information on the breadth of available careers and variety of pathways open to all.