Read time: 4 mins         Added date: 20/09/2023

Read how AccXel is helping the UK construction industry tackle skills shortages and embrace diversity and inclusion to make it a sector with a role for everyone.

Securing the future

A recent survey found that 48% of UK adults weren’t told about a trades job as a career option in school. So, where will the industry’s new generation come from? 

The issue was raised during boardroom and succession planning discussions at KW Bell Group, a large, well-established family construction firm in Gloucestershire. The directors had concerns over how the skills shortage would impact their business.

This issue inspired third-generation family member Nicola Bird to take action. After years of research and discussions around apprenticeships and the sector’s long-term outlook, she founded AccXel - the UK’s first co-funded Construction Skills Accelerator Centre. The family firm has been a Lloyds Bank customer since its inception. 

Tackling gender diversity

Part of the strategy for attracting more people to pursue construction careers is to make it a more diverse and inclusive industry. 

Many women don’t ever consider going into construction, and Operations Director Natalie King believes this is due to insufficient information. “If more young people knew about the industry and its opportunities, it would be more attractive. Construction is not an aspirational career that’s talked about in schools; much of the advice is geared around going to university, and that’s the script we’re trying to change to get more people in,” she highlights. 

Mental health matters

Building a more inclusive industry is not only about gender diversity. AccXel has developed a person-centred approach with a mandatory mental health module for its Skill STEPS programme. 

The construction industry has the highest suicide rate and is currently heavily male-orientated. Many men still don’t talk about their mental health, so AccXel brings in experts to talk about emotional intelligence.


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Investing in relationships

Like many industries, construction is evolving quickly through the use of technology. For example, there’s a demand for skilled drone operators, which is bringing more women into the sector as awareness of the variety of roles increases. 

AccXel has also invested in virtual reality (VR). This is being used as part of the plant operator apprenticeship programme to provide practical skills in a safe and supportive setting. The introduction of this innovative training was funded through a Lloyds Bank Asset Finance package. 

Daniel Tregunna is AccXel’s Relationship Manager and points out the support given to the business extends beyond purely financial. “We’ve provided more non-banking help than actual banking. We sponsored AccXel’s first-anniversary Industry Impact Awards event last December and plan to do so again this year,” he says. 

Daniel also introduced AccXel to the Lloyds Bank’s Corporate and Institutional Banking team to ensure their message is being delivered to a broader audience through events such as roundtable discussions. Earlier in the year, AccXel hosted Lloyds Bank’s ‘International Women’s Day’ event, so it’s very much a reciprocal relationship.

“Coming into construction as a woman, you feel like an imposter. Then, going into business when you've never run a business before was daunting and intimidating. Having people who believe in you and are willing to lend you money goes a long way to building confidence.”

Nicola Bird, Founder and Managing Director, AccXel

Building a firm foundation

Being accepted onto the government’s Register of Apprenticeship Training Providers was a significant milestone. In September 2023, AccXel will have 90 apprentices and currently employs a workforce of nine. 

While so much is going well, the team can’t afford to take their eye off the future. There’s been interest in taking AccXel nationwide, but maintaining the quality control, ethos, and credibility is essential because it’s more than just another education facility. Creating something bespoke and agile was one of the initial driving factors in setting up the business.  

Daniel is keen to ensure that providing financial support is the bare minimum Lloyds Bank can do to help businesses. “Our funding was the trigger for us to be able to promote what AccXel is doing for the construction industry as a whole. The message is far greater, and we’ve done a lot in the background to link conversations in departments across the bank to champion them and identify new opportunities,” he concludes.


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