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Our ongoing work on employment issues is rooted in the knowledge that there are no quick fixes – we are effectively helping to reconfigure a local economy which was running in one direction for the best part of two centuries. It will take time and active engagement not just from Canary Wharf Group but from local training providers, the Council and others to create the sustainable local employment market we all want to see.

However results have been very encouraging. From around 1,000 local people working on the Wharf in the early 1990s, the number of Tower Hamlets residents with a Canary Wharf job rose to 8,500 by 2010, making Canary Wharf one of the largest centres of employment for local people.

Across the local docklands boroughs of Tower Hamlets, Newham, Hackney, Greenwich, Lewisham and Southwark, the total number of residents working on the Wharf by 2010 was 24,750 – about 25% of total employment. Within this figure about the same number of people lived locally before gaining employment at Canary Wharf and then moved away from the area, as those who moved into the area having got a job at Canary Wharf.

Local employment and access to work for school-leavers, mothers returning to work and other people with limited qualifications has been helped by the success of Canary Wharf’s retail offer. With around 4,500 people working in the shops and restaurants of the Wharf and many more during Christmas and other busy periods, there are lots of opportunities for people to get their first step on the career ladder.

food-p2This success has not come about by accident. Over the years we have set up, supported and funded a series of innovative projects to help local people get the skills and experience they need, along with the direct chance to apply for work on Canary Wharf.

At the very start of the Canary Wharf project, we worked with the local borough council and the London Docklands Development Corporation (LDDC) to set up a local construction training centre at the old Poplar Baths, as the nearest Construction Industry Training Board (CITB) certification centre at that time was at Erith in Kent. All courses carried CITB certification and over 450 people qualified through courses in various construction trades. All successful candidates were offered employment on site.

Our ongoing initiative to help local people get into construction jobs was set up in 1997 as part of “The Partnership” an innovative Private/Public sector initiative between CWG, the London Boroughs of Tower Hamlets and Newham and the Employment Service. The cornerstone of the Partnership’s work was the Docklands Recruitment Centre (DRC). The DRC’s focus was to ensure that local residents benefited from construction development at Canary Wharf. Over 10 years the DRC helped secure over 1,900 construction jobs for local people. This has since been expanded with separate initiatives in Tower Hamlets and Newham.

Skillsmatch, a joint initiative between CWG and LBTH, was the successor to the DRC and incorporated all our work on construction employment. Skillsmatch helps local residents to access employment opportunities and pathways to careers. Its aim is to redress the balance between the significant opportunities created by the development and the remaining high levels of local unemployment. Staffed by LBTH employees with CWG providing rent-free premises on the Canary Wharf Estate, it provides an onsite service to help Tower Hamlets job seekers access employment in Canary Wharf and the wider Docklands area. Since inception in October 1997 it has placed over 9,000 local people into jobs.

In a typical year around 650 local people are placed into work through Skillsmatch, 838 in 2012. Ethnic minorities form over 70% of its placements. This achievement has spanned a range of industries from banks and other financial institutions to London Underground, Waitrose and Stagecoach. Increasingly Canary Wharf Group itself is finding new employees through the Skillsmatch project.

Through our business support programme, the East London Business Place, we work with LBTH to bring local jobseekers and local small and medium businesses (SME) together via LBTH’s Working Start programme. Working Start aims to help unemployed local people gain valuable work experience. It provides work placements of three to five months, depending on participants’ previous experience. The Council undertakes a selection process based on host employers’ requirements. All candidates are trained and assessed to business standard and the employer is involved in the recruitment sessions to ensure a good match. Host employers gain an employee for 25 hours a week at no cost and the Council provides the payroll service. Since the programme began in January 2012, 48 employers have used the Working Start Programme for their recruitment needs and 60% of Working start Trainees are in employment with the business or elsewhere within 8 weeks of their contract finishing.

Work Experience and Mentoring

CWG hosts between 80 and 90 Work Experience placements a year, normally for 1 – 2 weeks. Work Experience at Canary Wharf Group (CWG) is a great opportunity for individuals to develop key skills for their future employment and gain a valuable insight into the world of work.

park4CWG works closely with Tower Hamlets Education Business Partnership, an independent charity that provides CWG with a list of available schools looking for Work Experience placements.

All work experience students are encouraged to develop key employability skills throughout their placement, including teamwork, communication, motivation, time management and business etiquette. We use a framework based on these areas to review and assess their progress.

As part of the Careers Academy UK scheme, a charity established locally in 2003 and now a national scheme, CWG annually hosts approximately six students for six weeks. Nicola Della Mura, Assistant Personnel Officer, who attends seminars and annual conferences, is an Honorary Alumni of the scheme. George Iacobescu, Chief Executive Officer, is a member of the National Advisory Board for Careers Academies UK.

Through a Business Action on Homelessness “Ready to Work Programme”, the company has provided work experience placements for people who have been out of the working environment for some time and who have had no previous fixed address. The scheme allows individuals to develop the skills and confidence needed for future employment.

Canary Wharf staff act as mentors to local students. During these mentoring sessions students can use the opportunity to obtain study guidance, suggestions as to possible career initiatives, or to discuss any matter with which their mentor can be of help. In addition, CWG participates in a scheme called “Partner in Business”, providing mentors to act as role models offering friendship, support and advice to students.

CWG’s security department plays a key role in the Community Orientating Policing (COP) course run by the Metropolitan Police. This aims to engage with young people who have offended or are at risk of offending, helping to reduce anti-social behaviour, instilling leadership and peer role modelling and encouraging good citizenship. It introduces them to police youth organisations such as Volunteer Cadets and a possible career in the uniformed public services.

Visits from Local Schools – Canary Wharf Group plc also hosts visits from local secondary schools to help to prepare young people for the world of work. The aim is to build relationships, raise aspirations and increase awareness of the opportunities that may be available to them. Primary school visits are also hosted and we consider it helpful to give Year Six pupils an insight into how businesses work prior to their entry to secondary schools the following year. See the section on Education for more details.

Our education programme, launched in 2009, gives east London school children a unique insight into Canary Wharf’s colourful history. Working within the national curriculum for Key Stage 2 (primary school), this programme sees local students touring One Canada Square and the Canary Wharf Estate as well as receiving a glossy book, plus a lesson plan for teachers and classroom assistants.


The Canary Wharf Recruitment & Training Centre (CWRTC), staffed by LBTH Employment Solutions/Skillsmatch occupies an office building on Heron Quays donated by CWG, is another joint initiative between LBTH and CWG. This ground-breaking initiative in which CWG as the developer is facilitating direct access for recruitment and training between tenants on its estate and local jobseekers, was set up in March 2006 as a one-stop shop for employers in Canary Wharf and Tower Hamlets to address their training and recruitment needs. This building also houses Skillsmatch’s main job broking service set up in 1997 as mentioned earlier in the section on Employment.

people-canadasquare3Since the opening of the CWRTC in 2006, Skillsmatch has recruited for thousands of new jobs, delivered over 100 large recruitment campaigns, facilitated skills development courses for hundreds of young people hoping to obtain entry level jobs at Canary Wharf and, since January 2007, has introduced construction brokerage and training adding to the plethora of services it delivers.

Large scale recruitment campaigns at the Centre have included employers from Hospitality Leisure Tourism and Travel (HLTT), the Security industry, NHS, Retail, Construction, Queen Mary University, Tower Hamlets Homes, Barts& London NHS and Tower of London, with many beneficiaries placed into work as a direct result. Perhaps the most exciting thing about the CWRTC is that it will eventually be co-located with the East London Business Place in a more permanent location. As part of the Section 106 planning gain agreement on one of our major future developments, not only will dedicated space be made available for this new “one-stop shop” for local people and businesses, but an endowment is being created to fund its operation in perpetuity. To our knowledge this has never been done before and will ensure that local people have access to the economic opportunities on the Wharf whatever the future brings.

Also located at Heron Quays is the award winning Union of Construction and Allied Trades/Lewisham College Learning Centre which provides work related training for trade union learners. Learndirect, a pioneering learning partnership initiative between Canary Wharf Group plc and UCATT, was launched in November 2002 with its centre supplied and funded by CWG. The initiative was agreed with the Union of Construction Allied Trades and Technicians (UCATT), the Trades Union Congress (TUC) and Lewisham College. Learndirect, the first centre of its kind in London, has been cited as a model training centre for the construction industry and has since inspired others across the country.

Now renamed The George Brumwell Learning Centre after the former UCATT General Secretary, the centre provides innovative and flexible learning in computer skills and the internet to meet the needs of local construction workers and is a Prometric Test Centre for the Construction Skills Certificate Scheme. Thousands of people have completed the test since the centre opened. Other courses available include Health & Safety Awareness, Union Training, Computers, “Skills for Life” and English Language for those who have come to work on construction projects from overseas.

The Canary Wharf Apprenticeship Programme was created in response to a need for trained and job-ready crafts people at Canary Wharf. Initially there was a need to identify speed-trained bricklayers for a mixed use project on Canary Riverside, a project in which Canary Wharf Group retained an interest, but influenced employment and procurement practices. Despite many bricklayers qualifying to NVQ Level III, very few had site experience or sufficient speed. Following a successful recruitment campaign, 16 people were successfully trained to achieve acceptable bricklaying speeds at the Laing Training Centre in the Royal Docks and 15 gained employment.

In the light of this, CWG decided, during its main construction development, to support long-term training for young people wishing to work in construction. 85 local school leavers joined the scheme, mainly in the traditional construction crafts of Bricklaying, Carpentry, Electrical Installation and Plumbing. Placements were made with sub-contractors at Canary Wharf and local construction companies. We appointed an Apprenticeship Manager to co-ordinate and oversee the scheme and to work as the link between the apprentice, the parents, schools, the employer and the off-site training provider.

The Canary Wharf Apprenticeship programme was set up as a Modern Apprentice programme based on the traditional indentured apprenticeships, with apprentices working for an employer in their chosen craft and attending college for theory and skills training. This combined the discipline and experience of a working environment with theory.

Following the construction apprenticeships, CWG now recruits a small number of apprentices each year across a range of disciplines including maintenance engineering, specialist security equipment, CCTV, business administration, personnel training.

CWG’s Security Department participates in the Community Orientated Policing (COP) course run by the Metropolitan Police from Tower Hamlets. The course is run several times a year, for a period of 5 days and is targeted at local 14 to 17 year olds. It aims to engage with young people who have offended, or are at risk of offending, to reduce anti-social behaviour, instil leadership and peer role modelling, encourage good citizenship, CWG is an active member of the East London Business Alliance (ELBA), contributing and participating in every strand of ELBA’s skills and employment programme including delivering site tours and employability events for local jobseekers. CWG senior managers sit on ELBA’s various regeneration boards.

Graduate Recruitment

In 2009 following extensive consultation with local young people, Canary Wharf joined forces with the Young Foundation, University of East London and East London Business Alliance to offer a groundbreaking new scheme for local graduates.

Despite all the economic opportunity on the doorstep in both Canary Wharf and the City of London, Tower Hamlets has the highest rate of graduate unemployment of any borough. There are a number of reasons for this but many can be summed up by the fact that for many local young people, they are the first in their family to get to University. They typically have been living at home during their studies, lack work experience and do not have the contacts and networks that traditional middle-class University graduates enjoy – and that increasingly demanding graduate employers expect.

However, local graduates are resourceful, determined and have often overcome significant obstacles to gain their qualifications. They simply need a little extra help with the soft skills such as presentation skills, interview practice and writing CVs, plus sometimes the confidence to go for top jobs.

Since 2004, CWG has supported ELBA’s various graduate trainee schemes designed to help Tower Hamlets graduates gain employment experience in the fields of community outreach and human resources. CWG has hosted several trainees from these schemes. All of our placements have successfully gained employment following the schemes.

We have supported a Graduate Assessment Centre run by University of East London offering work skills to UEL Graduates along with help in finding employment. We have donated space for this centre, originally at 1 Heron Quays and, since 2012, on the 10th floor of One Canada Square.

As these two projects operate together, Canary Wharf Group is working with partners to develop a database of work placements for local graduates who have been through the Young Foundation, ELBA or the UEL Graduate Assessment Centre, giving them vital work experience to help in the search for permanent employment.

Economic Development

The former West India Docks had been the beating heart of the local economy for nearly two centuries, with thousands employed directly but many more working in related businesses.

When a heart dies, the body dies and it was no exception on the Isle of Dogs during the 1960s and 1970s. When the docks closed, the local economy started to die as well. First the businesses most directly related to the docks moved on or closed up – ship repair, lighterage, warehousing, haulage. Then the secondary businesses started to disappear – mechanics, caterers, electricians. Finally even the pubs, shops and cafés started to close as high levels of unemployment and low levels of economic activity took away their trade.

When the Canary Wharf project started to rise from the old docks in the late 1980s it was more than just a development project. Canary Wharf represented a new and very different heart for the east end economy but like all transplants it was going to take time for all the arteries and veins to link up properly.

This change, undergone in just two decades would normally have taken generations of organic evolution. Aware of the scale of social deprivation in one of the most deprived areas in the UK, Canary Wharf Group’s efforts have been focused on supporting the shift from the area’s hitherto predominantly manually based industry to the emerging financial and service based labour markets.

Canary Wharf Group (CWG) commissioned extensive research into the economic and employment prospects for East London based on the development of Canary Wharf, the new transport infrastructure and the area’s part in the growth of the London economy. Work undertaken for us since 1998 by the Centre of Economic and Business Research, a leading economic forecaster, has sought to identify both the scale and nature of job growth in London and, more specifically, the Docklands Boroughs and the Thames Gateway. Subsequent work by Steer Davies Gleave, transport consultants, has sought to identify catchment areas of Canary Wharf employees to assist policy initiatives for improving access both in terms of jobs and transport.

Further research has compared East and West London; looked at employment trends both in London and in the Thames Gateway boroughs through to 2025; reviewed the nature of the London economy and its growth prospects and, more recently, reviewed the impact of Crossrail on a wide range of deprivation indices.

We could have stopped at providing information and research to Government and left them to deliver local economic regeneration. However we thought that a partnership approach would have a better impact.

In a groundbreaking initiative in 1989, during phase 1 of the Canary Wharf development, we set out to help local companies and residents to benefit from the construction works. To facilitate this, we set up and staffed offices at the edge of the construction site; a Local Business Liaison Office to promote the use of local construction companies for sub-contracts, and a Recruitment Office to encourage local residents to register for construction labour. This challenged normal practice at the time, as trade contractors tended to bring their own pool of tried and tested sub-contractors and labourers along with them.

For information on our extensive programmes to help local people access direct employment opportunities on the Wharf see the Employment and Training section.

Considering the challenge involved in this new approach of “persuading” construction trade contractors to use local companies and labourers, the results were remarkable. Over £48 million worth of business was placed with local companies, £18 million of which was with Tower Hamlets companies, and over 500 Tower Hamlets residents gained construction employment on site.

Such was the impact of this initiative that Bovis, who worked closely with us on construction issues, successfully adapted a similar approach on their contract to build the huge Bluewater shopping development in Kent. The Local Labour and Business in Construction concept is now used to varying degrees by many large developments today and has become a model for such major schemes as the London 2012 Olympic Games and the Crossrail railway project.

Support for Local Business

When the second phase of major construction started at Canary Wharf in 1997, a more comprehensive and permanent programme to help local businesses was created.

CWG set up a dedicated Local Business Liaison Office (LBLO) with just one member of staff at the start. The idea was very clear – break down the barriers which prevented local small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) from bidding for and winning contracts on Canary Wharf projects – and contracts for Canary Wharf tenants.

The LBLO Manager Gay Harrington, working at first from a portacabin on one of our development sites, set up a very simple system. She talked to local SMEs who might be able to take on work, for example on electrical jobs, to find out why they were not bidding for contracts. She then talked to construction managers to find out why they were not using local SME suppliers.

Typically the problems were only with paperwork and process and sometimes with the size of the jobs – not with the quality or price of work. So while our construction managers agreed to reduce the size of contracts, and the amount of paperwork needed to put in a bid, the SMEs were encouraged to develop Health and Safety policies, Environmental Policies and invest in the IT and training necessary to meet Canary Wharf’s high standards. Then when contracts became available, Gay would make sure local SMEs were on the distribution list and actively help them get to the starting gate – after that it was up to them and fair competition ruled.

This very simple but hands-on approach has been outstandingly successful. Between its inception in 1997 and 2008, the LBLO helped local companies secure over £615 million of business from Canary Wharf Group and other local buyers. Additionally the LBLO with literally hundreds of local companies in membership became an important business network for east London.

The LBLO initiative was recognised by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation in its Local Labour and Business in Construction “Good Practice Resource Book” in March 2000 and our Local Business Liaison Manager was invited to address a national Local Labour in Construction conference. Following that, the LBLO advised the Corporation of London, the GLA, the London Olympic Games and Sunderland Social Enterprise in the setting up of their local procurement projects.

In 2008, at the request of the London Development Agency, in partnership with the Five Olympic Host Borough Partnership, the London Thames Gateway Partnership and East London Business Alliance (ELBA), CWG extended the LBLO’s service across the ten London Thames Gateway boroughs in an extended joint venture project called East London Business Place (ELBP). ELBP aims to help businesses in this sub region to compete for contracts arising from major developments across the Thames Gateway.

ELBP, under the directorship of CWG Social & Economic Development Manager Gay Harrington, started in April 2008, and by March 2011 had secured over £140 million of business for east London and Thames Gateway companies. It has engaged with over 4,500 SMEs, providing a free face-to-face service to improve fitness to supply through a comprehensive events programme, business advice, consultation, policy writing, assistance with tendering, access to contracts and free promotional assistance. Since 1997 the LBLO and ELBP have between them helped local firms to secure over £900 million of business.

In July 2012, as part of a partnership of CWG, Newham College of Further Education, ELBA, the London Legacy Development Corporation, the London Boroughs of Tower Hamlets, Newham, Greenwich, Barking and Dagenham and Havering and Neilcott Construction, ELBP secured European Regional Development Funding (ERDF) to December 2014 to deliver a local procurement support programme called Fit for Legacy.

There is a multifaceted return on our investment in these initiatives. Of course our work with local SMEs has given us a lot of local support and demonstrates CWG’s determination to be a good neighbour. However we have also found it very useful to have a stable of high quality, enthusiastic and loyal local suppliers able to move very quickly when we need them. This in turn has become a positive selling point to potential Canary Wharf tenants when they ask about the capability of the local economy to supply them with the services and products a large international business might need. Finally by creating thousands of indirect jobs – the last estimate in 1999 being over 150,000 indirect jobs dependent on the Canary Wharf estate – the LBLO and ELBP are helping to support a vibrant and diverse local economy. That means more people in work, and more people shopping at Canary Wharf, which in turn drives more investment.

In addition to the LBLO / ELBP programmes, as part of our ongoing partnership with the London Borough of Tower Hamlets, Canary Wharf Group has chaired the Tower Hamlets Business Partnership and is represented on the Board of the Tower Hamlets Partnership: two organisations helping set economic priorities for the local community.

This virtuous circle of economic development goes far beyond what is legally required or expected of a developer – testament to the fact that Canary Wharf takes a very long term view of how to keep the east end’s new economic heart thriving.

Tips on Local Procurement

Local Procurement
Introduction – why buy local
East London Business Place
A range of actions you may want to consider in developing a local procurement policy
Useful links

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