A key concern of both the community and local businesses is that the national children’s hospital – as the most important piece of social infrastructure and investment developed in the area in decades – should have positive spin-offs and benefits for the wider area.
Community Benefit Programme Manager with the National Paediatric Hospital Development Board, Ingrid McElroy, yesterday provided Dublin City Councillors with an update on the programme of activity that is underway to maximise the benefit to the local community from the new children’s hospital being developed in their area.
In 2015, an independent report commissioned by the project’s Community Benefits Oversight Group called ‘Harnessing the Potential’ identified a wide range of areas in which the local community will benefit from the project and set out a series of recommendations to ensure that they were realised and maximised.
The resulting pioneering community benefit programme is focused on four pillars – maximising local employment and training opportunities, supporting local businesses and enterprises, improving community health and wellbeing, and raising aspirations through educational outreach initiatives.
The inclusion of an innovative Community Benefit Clauses in all project-related construction contracts with employment targets for long term unemployed and new entrants is ensuring that local people are benefiting directly from employment opportunities. During the initial yearlong enabling works, where the community benefit clause was piloted 4 new entrants – representing 10% of the construction workforce – have been employed in roles such as engineer’s assistants, site administrators and general operatives (for a total of 147 work weeks) and continue to work on the project. An additional 14 people from Dublin 8 and 12 were also employed for 300 work weeks.
During the 4-year main construction works, it is planned that up to 14,000 work weeks (or 270 person-years of employment) will delivered by new entrants.
A key element in the strategy is the active connection to the local employment and training bodies. The NPHDB is engaging on an ongoing basis with the CDETB Colleges of Further Education and training agencies to maximise potential work experience placements and to investigate how training provision can be refined to match employer needs. A Recruitment Pathway has also been devised and agreed with Intreo on Cork Street and Local Employment Services (LES) Dublin 12/8 where all vacancies including with subcontractors are advertised
The construction contractor, BAM, is also currently recruiting a dedicated Community Benefit Coordinator to manage the recruitment, training and mentoring of new entrants and apprentices, as well as students and work experience placements amongst all the contractors and sub-contractors during the main construction phase.
Together, the NPHDB is working with BAM to deliver the maximum benefit to local business and social enterprises and a number of ‘Meet the Buyer’ events have been held in the last two years to educate businesses about upcoming opportunities to facilitate them tendering for work. As part of the enabling phase, BAM sourced 33% of contracts from companies based in Dublin 8 and 12, and 92% from the wider Dublin area. In the last two years contracts totalling €500,000 have been awarded to local businesses by the NPHDB and BAM.
As well as providing employment and business opportunities in the short-term, initiatives are ongoing to raise aspirations through education, encouraging children to consider careers that will be provided by the hospital both during the construction and operational phase. The second annual careers day looking at the jobs in design, engineering, and construction will take place during Engineers Week on February 27th. Staff of the NPHDB delivered a 6-week “Engineering in a Box” programme in local schools in 2017, bringing the profession to life in the school setting. An innovative health science programme is also currently being developed which, while focused on health science and health education, is designed to encourage an interest in healthcare related careers.
Gordon Jeyes, Independent Chairman of the Community Benefits Oversight Group said; “The new children’s hospital is the largest capital investment in healthcare in the history of the State. Through the construction phase and into the operational phase, a hospital of this nature brings enormous activity – economically and socially – to the community and the focus of our group is to ensure that local people and businesses benefits from this as much as possible.”
Ingrid McElroy, Community Benefit Programme Manager with the National Paediatric Hospital Development Board said; “The new children’s hospital is for Ireland’s children and young people, a quarter of our population. But it is also more than that, it will be one of the largest employers in the area – employing 3,700 people when it’s operational in 2022 – and it is our clear ambition that local people will benefit from this activity as much as possible, whether that is by direct employment, the spin-off generated economic activity, or the increased focus on health and wellbeing in the local community. Working with educational, training, employment and community partners in the area, we are creating pathways and raising awareness within the community about the opportunities that the new children’s hospital will provide.”
Theo Cullinane, CEO of BAM said: “We are delighted to be working with the National Paediatric Hospital Development Board on the new children’s hospital. This is a landmark project for Ireland – currently the biggest building under construction in the country – and we are committed to working with the NPHDB to ensure that the local community benefits from our development. We are currently recruiting a full-time community benefit co-ordinator who will be responsible for ensuring that the works continue to provide opportunities for unemployed people, young people and those new to the construction industry, as well as to nearby businesses, as we are committed to fulfilling our community obligations.”
Ross Burns (21) from Inchicore has been working on the site of the new children’s hospital for the last 12 months as an Engineers’ Assistant, gaining invaluable experience across all areas of construction. “Working on the new children’s hospital is fantastic experience, every day is different and I’m learning so much. I’ve been sent on loads of different training courses too. I studied architecture for a couple of years, but I found it hard to get work in the area, so I ended up working in a shop across the road from the site. I got chatting to the construction workers when they came into the shop and then this opportunity came up and it’s been life changing. When I finish working here I plan to go back to college to study civil engineering and to pursue a career in construction.”