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West Midlands Ambulance Hub: delivering social value through construction

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Sandwell Council, Stoford and McLaren Construction made sure the development of a new hub for the West Midlands Ambulance Service brought wider community benefits through apprenticeships, internships and schools engagement.

Healthcare premises specialist Assura plc funded the 72,000 square foot, three-storey building on Shidas Lane in Oldbury. Replacing a smaller base in West Bromwich, it is the largest of its kind in the UK, significantly increasing ambulance operational capacity for the Black Country.

The new West Midlands Ambulance Hub accommodates around 350 operational ambulance staff, working shifts. It includes a facility for the Hazardous Area Response Team (HART), as well as fleet maintenance and vehicle preparation areas. It also has an education and training academy, and central stores.

And as we explain here, it not only provides essential emergency services but its construction helped boost skills and career aspirations for local people.

Sandwell Council’s social value drive

All year round, Sandwell Council works hard to encourage social value from businesses – helping to ensure the work they do in Sandwell brings wider educational, social and environmental benefits to the area. In the case of the West Midlands Ambulance Services hub construction, the council was able to get social value commitments from a range of organisations – who delivered on their promises.

This work meant that the hub build created eleven apprenticeships for local people, and generated two internships in construction management.

When electrics company WysePower started work on the site, for example, it took on five apprentices in electrical and plumbing disciplines. McLaren’s social value consultant helped to make this happen, as well as the Employment and Skills Team from Sandwell Council.

Early on in the development, McLaren also engaged with Birmingham City University and offered site visits and talks. The work generated two six-week internships in construction, given to students Reece and Abdul at the university. Both said they found the placement very beneficial. Abdul spent time shadowing different roles, including engineering, design, quantity surveying and site management. He commented that this opened his eyes to the different roles and possibly changed his career aspirations.

Sandwell Council also supported McCoy Contractors, the groundworks company on the project, in recruiting groundworker apprentice, Cameron.

When asked what he enjoyed about his role, Cameron said: “I have really settled into my role at McCoy Contractors. I really enjoy the physical side of the work. I have been allocated to a ‘gang’ on site and I have formed a great friendship with all of the lads that I work with. They trust me and therefore allow me to prepare the pipes or even help lay them. This means that I am always busy, which I believe is key to enjoyment, especially during the apprenticeship stage.”

Sandwell schools engagement

Throughout construction of the new site, McLaren enjoyed a close relationship with Rounds Green Primary School, which is just a few minutes’ walk away. 

Project manager Dave Newman and sustainability manager Naomi Warr gave talks to the whole school on sustainability. They also launched a bug house design competition and followed this with class visits to the site. 

The judges of the competition were blown away by the standard of entries. So much so that two overall prizes were awarded, in addition to each year group winner. The winning teams went to the site to build the bug houses out of waste materials to encourage biodiversity. 

All the winners of the design competition received prizes donated by contractors McCoy and PJ Brickwork.

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