Building its workforce is key for Metnor


Metnor Construction Ltd, one of the largest privately-owned construction businesses in the North East, has grown rapidly in recent years and last month achieved 13th place in the Ward Hadaway’s ‘Fastest 50’.

With the uncertainty of Brexit, a skills shortage, and the collapse of Carillion earlier this year, the construction industry has faced challenges in 2018. Despite this, Metnor Construction has embraced adversity and shows no signs of slowing down, with recent contract wins including a datacentre for Colt Technologies which will be phased over the next three years’ with a value in excess of £40 million and a £10 million care village in Cheshire.

Despite technologies such as Business Information Modelling (BIM) and virtual reality making waves in the industry – Metnor Construction understands its workforce is its best asset, with its people having the biggest influence on the company’s future.

Recognition can be seen throughout the company’s entire supply chain – with Metnor Construction taking great pride in its category A suppliers.

This partnership allows Metnor Construction to be certain of achieving the best for clients. It also shows commitment to best practices and supports local businesses wherever possible.

With a strong focus on staff development at the organisation, Metnor Construction is currently supporting 25 per cent of its employees through further education or development plans to drive performance and positive change for growth. A testament to Metnor Construction’s support system can be seen with head of operations, Lee Kirk, who recently won ‘Mentor of the Year’ at this year’s Generation4Change awards, in association with Constructing Excellence North East.

Lee himself has been with the company for nearly five years, with his recent promotion seeing him step up to head of operations from operations manager. As is the ethos for Metnor Construction, Lee recognises that it is the people who are the driving force of the company.

He says: “It is the culture of identifying new talent and nurturing it alongside high calibre, experienced managers, that is proving so successful for Metnor Construction.

“We have excellent progression paths and, in turn, I have embraced the opportunity to mentor younger members of our team.”

Metnor Construction has also recently been listed in ‘The Fastest 50’ list for the second year running. The Fastest 50 list recognises companies which have been able to achieve three years of strong turnover growth while still remaining profitable. This success is a demonstration of the leadership within the company, with the value of its workforce being recognised at the most senior level.

Managing director at Metnor Construction, Chris Cant, says: “We have seen unprecedented levels of growth in a short space of time and when I was appointed as managing director, my vision was clear – to grow by developing a structure of stability based upon attracting and retaining the right people.”

With a strong focus on the people within the organisation, Metnor Construction also works hard to address the ever-concerning skills gap affecting the sector.

Arcadis has reported the construction industry must recruit 400,000 people each year until 2021 in order to keep up with the country’s housing and infrastructure needs. But with 35 per cent of careers advisors believing a career in construction is unattractive, and two in five parents stating they wouldn’t encourage their children to join the industry, the stigma is proving difficult to shift.

Some of the most common misconceptions of the industry include a lack of job security, poor working conditions and little to no health and safety. The sector is deemed as suitable only for those who are low skilled and physically strong (due to the perceived physical demands of the role) and it is seen as predominantly a male environment.

This view, alongside poor careers guidance, makes it difficult for the construction industry to appear attractive to those looking to decide on a career. To help close the gap and reduce the skills shortage, Metnor Construction aims to engage with the local community in all of its projects, demonstrating the different careers available when working as a management contractor. This is crucial to changing people’s opinions towards the construction industry.

While Metnor Construction actively looks for young people and apprentices to support its growth, it also understands that to shift the stigma, work must be done with those at a much younger age.

With the recent construction of Backworth Park Primary School, Metnor Construction worked closely with pupils – taking them on site to see the progress of their new school, as well as giving them the opportunity to see how technologies such as VR goggles can be used within the industry.

With strong roots in the North East, Metnor Construction aims to give back to the surrounding community, with a partnership with Newcastle Sixth Form College – part of the Enterprise Advisor programme. The partnership gives Metnor Construction the opportunity to speak to young students at a crucial stage of their career journey, providing them with meaningful engagements with local businesses. The aim of the partnership is to strengthen the careers education programme at the Sixth Form, allowing students to develop the skills they need to successfully progress into the world of work.

David Coe, transition and progression coordinator at Newcastle Sixth Form College, says: “Metnor Construction’s support and expertise will be invaluable in ensuring that our students continue to receive high-quality careers guidance opportunities and to understand and develop the skills they need to successfully progress into the world of work.”

Metnor Construction is always ready to review and adapt current infrastructure and practices in order to sustain and improve on its current growth.

Chris Cant comments: “We have a great group who are self-motivated and take pride in what they do.

“Collaboration is at the heart of Metnor Construction and it is their open and friendly approach that creates an environment for such a talented pool of construction professionals to grow.”