Inclusive growth: sharing the benefits of placemaking



Thirdperson has worked closely with LLDC to help tell the story of its community and business engagement work as part of the regeneration of east London. Below we discuss the key themes around placemaking and creating 'good growth'.

Placemaking is about much more than designing nice places to live and work and building a sense of community. It means creating an ecosystem that brings real benefits to the widest possible cross-section of residents. And that means jobs and training opportunities.

This requires employers, public authorities, schools, colleges and local people to work together to connect local talent to new opportunities created by building new places.

The transformation of east London involves putting this theory into practice.

A bit of history

Formerly the UK’s trading gateway to the world, east London became one of the country’s worst unemployment hotspots as a result of the dock closures and decline in manufacturing.

The re-imagining of east London’s future began in the 1980s. By the turn of the century this led to a vision for a new metropolitan business district for London. Spurred on by hosting London 2012 and the creation of Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, the area around Stratford in east London is now a hub for a growing cluster of commerce, technology, manufacturing, retail, education and the creative arts. 

The Park and surrounding area are now embarking on a major new phase of development. The new East Bank development at the Park will be at the heart of this, bringing world-class institutions such as University College London, London College of Fashion, Sadler’s Wells and the Victoria and Albert Museum to east London, along with an explosion in the number of small businesses and start-ups.

This is creating a unique mix of education, enterprise and innovation and taking the scale of job opportunities to a new level, with employers from tech companies to arts organisations to construction contractors looking to fill vacancies.

Delivering the benefits

Part of the mission of the London Legacy Development Corporation (LLDC) – the mayoral body responsible for the regeneration of the area – is to connect the talents of east Londoners to the opportunities being created in and around Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park so that everyone has a chance to share in the benefits, whatever their background.

Its ‘East Works’ programme is opening up new opportunities for east Londoners to get skills and jobs in sectors that many may not have previously considered.

In many ways the Park is setting the benchmark for regeneration nationally and internationally. It’s leading the way in how to deliver local skills and jobs, in diversity, inclusion and sustainability. It’s a place where responsible businesses and local people can learn, engage and embrace new ways of working and benefit from responsible growth.

Michelle May, LLDC’s socio-economic programme director believes its work is critical to delivering “good growth”. “We’re working to create a fairer economy where everyone can share in the benefits of regeneration, whatever their background.”

So what lessons can we learn from LLDC’s approach to delivering new jobs and skills training opportunities for local people?

Connecting employers to local talent

Many employers are struggling to recruit and retain the skilled workforce they need. Yet the talent among east London’s young and vibrant population have often gone unrecognised and many local people are unaware of the extent of career opportunities arriving on their doorstep.

Connecting east Londoners to employers is therefore key to making the most of the opportunities.

LLDC helps to make these connections in three key areas: construction and the built environment; digital technology; and the creative, cultural and fashion sectors. 

Over 11,000 people have worked on the Park since the London 2012 Games. More than a quarter of construction jobs have gone to local people and over 50% of the Park workforce are from black and minority ethnic backgrounds. It’s estimated there will be 40,000 new jobs by 2025. 

Delivering opportunities for local people is also about challenging the culture of low paid work and unpaid internships. In practice this means working with businesses to implement fair employment practices and tackling low pay by ensuring LLDC and its partner employers and developers pay the London Living Wage as a minimum.

Linking business and education

Employers need young people with the right skills, particularly for professional and technical roles. It’s essential that they work with schools, colleges and training providers in changing times to ensure that the young people of today are equipped to be the employees and job creators of the future. 

LLDC is helping to bring together leading businesses with local schools and colleges to develop innovative approaches to learning that bridge the gap between what employers need and what schools and colleges are teaching in the classroom. 

One example is Design…Engineer…Construct©, a programme that addresses skills gaps in science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) and promotes exciting and varied careers ranging from business information modelling (BIM) in construction through to the creative, media and digital sectors.

Another is a programme of work placements with Park contractors and partners, paying the London Living Wage for local graduates. The programme offers opportunities in construction, engineering and architecture for young people attending schools across the neighbouring boroughs.    

A more recent industry-education partnership is the development of a Training Academy on the Park delivering training programmes in 3D printing 3D visiualisation augmented reality and virtual reality, developed in partnership with Hobs Studio and Here East. 

These projects help to break down barriers to employment and give local people access to opportunities in the changing world of work.

Delivering apprenticeships

Apprenticeships are one of the most important ways of enabling young people to start their careers by equipping them with the skills they need for the less rigid job roles of the future. As well as allowing young people to earn while they learn, apprenticeships mean employers can train the next generation workforce in the skills directly relevant to their businesses.

But the take up of apprenticeships in some sectors since the introduction of the Apprenticeship Levy has been disappointing. For example, high levels of subcontracting and short work programmes make employing apprentices difficult in the construction industry.

In response, LLDC along with founding partners Mace, Lendlease, Balfour Beatty and Taylor Wimpey have developed a Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park Training Association that seeks to address some of these challenges by developing collaborative and agile approaches to apprenticeships and training in construction and the built environment. 

Since 2012, over 300 young people have benefitted from apprenticeships in and around the Park. This is just the start. As well as delivering many apprenticeships with construction employers, LLDC is now working with employers in the digital, cultural, creative and fashion sector to ensure apprenticeships are more accessible.

Widening the talent pool

With its young and dynamic population, east London is ideally placed to address the skills gap that many employers face. But many east Londoners face barriers to job opportunities, such as course fees for higher education. Getting a job in the creative and media sector often depends on a well-developed network. Many digital, cultural and creative organisations are committed to greater diversity and want to offer paid internships to local people, but often struggle to attract them. 

Delivering opportunities for local people means increasing the diversity of the workforce and breaking down the barriers to jobs for women, disabled people and those from black and minority ethnic backgrounds, and other under-represented groups. 

This requires active intervention and significant investment in skills development. It depends on co-ordination of employers, employment agencies and training providers so that the supply of skilled people meets demand.

To help employers in the creative sector to access local talent, LLDC has helped create programmes such as STEP, a 12-month London Living Wage paid internship programme and FLIPSIDE, an immersive digital product design programme, both designed and run by industry professionals. The aim is to remove the barriers many young people face accessing the industry by creating  alternative pathways for under-represented groups. 

So, in this way, employers in and around the Park have a unique opportunity to shape the talent pipeline, try out new approaches to skills development and change the way they think about their future workforce needs. 

Connecting people to employers; linking businesses with education; supporting apprenticeships and creating opportunities for a more diverse workforce – that’s real placemaking. 


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