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Costain Hosts 'Seeing Is Believing' Event

20 April 2011

Business leaders from the water, power and construction industry were given an insight into what is being done to promote science, technology and engineering skills at a Business in the Community (BITC) event, led by Costain, for the Prince of Wales’ Seeing is Believing programme.

Hosted by Andrew Wyllie, Costain’s Chief Executive, and Stephen Wells, Group Strategy and Business Development Director, with David Allvey, Costain's Chairman, one of the speakers, delegates were invited to visit Crest Boys Academy, in Neasden, and St Joseph’s RC Primary School, in Willesden, to see how programmes such as STEMNET and Mosaic, are being implemented in order to bridge the growing skills gap in the UK.

According to data from BITC, the UK is at least 15% less productive than France, Germany and the US because the working age population is less skilled. The UK is also considered to be weak in vital intermediate technical skills that are increasingly important as technological change accelerates. With 80% of the people who will be in the workforce in 2020 already out of compulsory education, the scale of the task facing the UK economy is a daunting one.

STEMNET aims to redress the balance by getting more school children interested in science, technology, engineering and mathematics through creativity and problem solving. It also complements initiatives that are already being undertaken in many schools across the country, such as the Mosaic mentoring programme. This initiative from The Prince of Wales aims to raise young people’s aspirations in the most deprived areas, by providing access to opportunities for education and employment otherwise not available to them, as well as broadening their horizons, providing positive role models and opening networks to access employment and education.

Andrew and Stephen were joined by seven business leaders including Martin Baggs, the Chief Executive of Thames Water; Michael Dyke, the UK Head of Construction for National Grid; Bill Hockings, Executive Vice President for Skanska UK; Andrew Flower, the Transformation Director at Serco Civil Government and Nick Maggs, Director of Energy Management Services at Enterprise.

Delegates were invited to meet staff and pupils at the schools and to join in the maths and science classes so they could see for themselves how the STEMNET programme is being implemented.

The event then moved on to the National Grid Tunnelling Project, in Willesden, for an overview of the project and a question and answer session with Jeremy Galpin, Costain’s Training and Talent Manager, and Dr. John Connaughton from the Construction Youth Trust, for an insight into what Costain is doing to help bridge the skills gap.

Delegates then split into groups to meet apprentices, trainee engineers, construction ambassadors and graduates to get an insight into the challenges facing young people looking to forge a career in a technical industry and the importance of apprenticeships.

BITC is a business-led charity and its Prince’s Seeing is Believing programme aims to inspire and engage business leaders on responsibility issues. Through unique visits into the heart of UK communities, the programme offers a way to challenge business leaders’ perceptions on responsibility issues within their individual businesses, through their supply chains and across industries.

Since 1990, over 7,500 business leaders have participated in the Prince’s Seeing is Believing visits.

Commenting on the event, Catherine Warbrick, Corporate Responsibility Director, said: “I would like to thank everyone for making the day such a great success. As the statistics from BITC show, more needs to be done to get young people interested in science, technology and engineering if we are to face up to the significant challenges facing the UK economy in the years ahead.”