Judging Construction News Specialists Awards reveals industry is serious about Social Value

Phil Wade, Non-Exec Director at Socius has proudly supported the Construction News Specialists Awards for a number of years, judging the Apprentice of the Year category and witnessing some inspirational stories of young people making their first steps into the construction sector. Phil tells us about his experience on the judging panel and how his role in this year’s awards has given him insight into how companies are embracing and committing to social value…

For a number of years, I have enjoyed judging the ‘Apprentice of the Year’ category at the Construction News Specialists Awards. I have witnessed how, in some cases, the opportunities provided by specialist contractors have given young people a lifeline (quite literally in one case)! Transforming a life with little hope for the future to one that offers safety, security and a sense of purpose and fulfilment. The experiences I’ve had in my role as a judge have made me realise how much some of us take for granted the basic necessities of humankind, and how easy it is to improve lives without too much effort - if we choose to stick our head above the parapet rather than in the sand!

This year, I couldn’t support the apprentice category due to personal commitments, but the Construction News Specialists Awards offered me the opportunity to judge the ‘Excellence in Social Value’ category instead. Given the focus and commitment that Socius places on social value, this is an area very close to my heart and I jumped at the opportunity.

To be honest, I went in with limited expectations of what the entries might reveal; contractors offering x number of apprenticeships or £y amount of spend with local businesses, because that’s what they had been asked to do through the planning or contract systems.

I couldn’t have been more wrong!

We shortlisted and interviewed 7 companies, from specialist scaffolding contractors through to nationally recognised demolition and groundworks contractors across a variety of sectors, from building to infrastructure and open space management. All companies demonstrated a thorough understanding of the TOMS framework and were working to deliver improvements in all areas, with greater or lesser success depending on the business or projects status. The ones that stood out to me were those where social value was clearly embedded in the organisation’s culture, where strong and consistent leadership had created a real sense of ownership amongst staff and supply chains.

We witnessed innovative solutions, such as; Minecraft being adapted to design scaffolding, in order to encourage kids to get involved in the industry; provision of bee hotels and wild flower seeds to get communities involved in creating biodiversity in open spaces; support for ex-prisoners, helping them fund accommodation, whilst not losing their rights to benefits; and plenty of examples of company-wide volunteering days, charity work and clean up days in the community.

The whole experience was a real demonstration of how the industry is leading, rather than just playing lip service to todays “buzzword”. It was clear that the businesses we saw actually believed social value was the right thing to do, rather than feeling that they had to do it.

Our industry has shown remarkable resilience over the last few years, particularly given all the challenges it has had thrown at it, and the future is clearly still very tricky. Despite this, we have individuals and organisations who are willing to take on the next challenge and leave a real legacy for the communities they touch.

Now that’s inspiring!

For more information about the Construction News Specialists Awards 2023, visit here

Winners will be announced in September, so watch this space!