East Midlands construction SMEs play major role in supporting Midlands Engine growth

Portland Leisure Centre

Construction SMEs in the East Midlands region have recruited almost 40 new apprentices and achieved sustained business growth in the last five years thanks to a commitment from the public sector to support local economic growth.

Supply chain partners across Nottingham, Leicester and Lincolnshire have played a major role in delivering construction schemes for the public sector, working with contractors on the East Midlands Property Alliance (empa) framework. empa was formed by local authorities in the East Midlands and is managed by Scape Group, a public sector owned built environment specialist.

As a result, the supply chain SMEs have created more jobs and recorded year-on-year growth within the sector, which is experiencing a major skills gap.

Leicester-based company Electract Limited is one of the supply chain partners benefiting from this crucial growth. The firm has supported the delivery of 20 empa projects on the current framework totalling a value of £3,987,000, which includes the King Richard III Visitor Centre in Leicester, delivered by Morgan Sindall.

The electrical installations company has also supported Wates Construction in the delivery of numerous projects, including Heathfield School in Nottingham, Blaby Vehicle Depot and Wellingborough Crematorium, which has seen Wates generate a total spend of £1.7m with the business since 2014.

Peter Connor, managing director for Electract Limited said that these projects had been vital for training staff and has allowed the firm to recruit up to seven apprentices a year.

“We have been able to grow from strength to strength and have maintained this growth through the recession,” Peter said. “The steady stream of work which has arisen from the empa framework has meant that we have been able to boost our workforce and train more young people in the trade and in related office roles.

“We’ve also completed an extension at our head office in Leicestershire and moved our Nottingham branch to larger premises in Watnall.”

Another firm to have benefited from empa’s commitment to support SMEs is Nottingham-based ASBN, which works closely with Derby-based contractor G F Tomlinson.

Now celebrating ten years in business, the mechanical and electrical business was crucial in the delivery of a major internal refurbishment for Nottingham’s Portland Leisure Centre which has become a thriving community sports centre using 50 per cent less energy in running costs.

Nick Clews, contracts director for ASBN, explained that major projects like the Portland Leisure Centre helped the firm to raise its profile amongst other potential clients whilst allowing the business to achieve consistent growth.

“Working with G F Tomlinson on the Portland Leisure Centre scheme has meant that we have secured more work through Nottingham City Council to make further improvements at city-centre leisure centres,” explained Nick.

“We have been in a position to take on our first electrical apprentice, employ and train two additional full time members of staff and promote key personnel to strengthen the team. A dedicated pipeline of work has enabled us to offer more services and increase our turnover by 10 to 15 per cent each year.”

Similarly, Midlands-based AMICI Building Contractors has seen a 10 per cent growth in its turnover in the past five years and has increased its workforce by five operatives. During this time, Wates Construction has worked collaboratively with the brick specialist across its East Midlands projects, generating a total spend of £1.2 million within the business.

Andrew Walker, managing director of AMICI Building Contractors, said: “During the recession, the work awarded to AMICI was invaluable and helped us to maintain our turnover and training before growing it by around ten percent in the last five years.

“Since then, we have been able to employ and train three new bricklaying apprentices thanks to the empa projects we have delivered alongside Wates and our labour force has increased by three per cent. Undertaking new build projects alongside refurbishment projects, AMICI has worked successfully on Coleshill Leisure Centre, Heathfield Primary School, Sneinton Market, Dakeyne Street and Wellingborough Crematorium, which has resulted in a near constant workflow from empa projects.”

Ian Towlson, regional frameworks manager for Scape Procure added: “The Midlands Engine Strategy outlines the government’s commitment to strengthen skills in the region. With a shortage of skilled workers in the area and increased pressure on the construction industry to deliver, there has never been a greater time for construction contractors to be fully engaged with the supply chain.

“Supporting construction SMEs to grow is one of our core values, their role is paramount to maintaining the delivery of projects and helping to boost productivity across our region.

“Key developments within the region such as the St Luke’s Hospital in Market Harborough, King Richard III Visitor Centre in Leicester and the regeneration of Sneinton Market and the Creative Quarter in Nottingham, would not have been possible without the support of a highly-skilled supply chain.

“Many of our SME partners are family-run businesses which rely on a consistent stream of work from the construction industry, and the empa framework gives these smaller businesses a reliable income, which is invaluable to support local economic growth.

“Public sector bodies that choose to work with us are helping to make a real difference to local communities, in turn supporting the creation of jobs and boosting apprenticeship opportunities for young people.”

The nine construction partners on the empa framework are Ashe Construction, Clegg Construction, G F Tomlinson, Interserve, Jeakins Weir, Lindum, Morgan Sindall, Wates Construction and Woodhead Group.