Article by Steven Gill - Contracts Manager at Webber (NW) Ltd
Engineering plays a vital role in the UK’s economic and societal wellbeing, providing many jobs and solving major infrastructure challenges. Yet, there’s a shortfall of skilled trades people coming through, which will affect all of us.
Here at Webber, we take on two apprentices each year, working in partnership with Merseyside Maritime College. Creating the fabricators and welders of the future is something that we really believe in. It’s great when we have clients like British Land who encourage their partners to look at the big picture and take on apprentices.
We’ve been working on projects for British Land for around a decade. They always encourage their construction contractors to involve smaller local businesses, so we’ve completed several projects at New Mersey in Speke and Deepdale in Preston. This puts money back into the local economy around British Land’s shopping parks and it means that they get a highly skilled service tailored to their needs.
Living just five minutes up the road from New Mersey, I’ve felt great pride watching our team working on the £23m leisure extension there, since August 2017. British Land’s contractor, McLaren, actually split off part of the main steelwork package to create an opportunity for us as a small, local business.
Big steelwork firms don’t always want to get involved in intricate, bespoke details, and that’s where small, local firms like us can really add value. We’ll sit with the designers and site team and work out what’s best for different aspects. We’ve also got a lot of specialist experience; for instance, knowing just where to put the acoustic pads on cinema steelworks, so that noise doesn’t travel.
We’ve had around 14 local workers on site, including one of our apprentices, assembling all the auditorium seating for the new 11-screen cinema. They’ve put together the steelwork made at our workshop 20 minutes away in Knowsley, like it’s a giant Meccano set. They’ve also done the framework for louvres, emergency staircases and general metalworks including stainless steel balustrades with glass infills.
There’s a lot to be said for using a local workforce. You can have people on site whenever they’re needed and there’s always a supervisor on hand, which is a bonus for the construction team. Plus, it’s all work for local people, whose money goes back into the local economy. So, everyone’s happy.
British Land’s projects have created great opportunities for us. And when you do a good job, one thing often seems to lead on to another. We’re currently talking to McLaren about opportunities on another British Land site, which could be another couple of years’ work. It looks like we’ll have plenty to keep our local team and apprentices busy!
'Great to hear that a local company is making such a success and that the apprentice we helped them recruit is doing so well...' Lynne Debbazi from Liverpool In Work