Learn About the Latest News on the Largest UK Solar Facility by Sonnedix, the Keepmoat’s Brilliant New Bricklayers Addressing the Construction Skills Deficit, Recruiter Predicts Worsening Construction Skills Shortages, and the Building of Ontario’s First Rail Megaproject

In today’s news, we will look into the latest news on the construction of Sonnedix’s largest solar facility in the United Kingdom. During this time, we would like to introduce you to Keepmoat’s exceptional duo of freshly qualified bricklayers for addressing the scarcity of construction skills. In addition, recruiters are warning that the labour shortage in the construction industry is going to get even more severe. In addition, Lain Thomas FCIOB is in charge of the building of the ten billion dollar Toronto GO Expansion. Rod Sweet is the recipient of his description of his role in this enormous undertaking.

Largest UK Solar Facility by Sonnedix Begins Construction 

Original Source: Construction begins on Sonnedix’s largest UK solar plant 

In its 300MW UK portfolio, Sonnedix is building Cowley Complex, its largest solar facility.

The 120 MW ground-mounted solar PV facility, which will be one of the UK’s largest in 2025, will create over 100 green jobs.

In County Durham, the Cowley Complex will include three connected 60MW, 43MW, and 17MW sites.

Sonnedix projected that it will generate 124,600MWh of renewable electricity annually, enough to power 35,000 UK homes and reduce CO2 emissions by 48,000 metric tonnes.

EPC contractor Ameresco Sunel Energy is building Cowley Complex to help the worldwide renewable energy producer lead the UK’s renewables transformation.

Sonnedix moved into the UK in 2022 by acquiring Lightsource bp’s 300MW five-project solar PV portfolio.

Sonnedix CEO Axel Thiemann said: “We have reached a major milestone in our UK growth strategy with the construction of our largest plant. We are thrilled to grow our market share and help the UK move to a clean, secure, and sustainable energy system and fulfil its decarbonisation goals.”

The project is the first to employ Sonnedix’s EUR 500 million loan facility from December 2023 to finance European projects, primarily in Spain, Italy, and the UK. Multiple Currency loans help it cluster, contract, and build its renewable plant development pipeline more efficiently and flexibly.

The UK government’s Contracts for Difference (CfD) mechanism secures price and income for the entire portfolio. The CfD system will begin in 2026 after Cowley Complex is built.

Jorge Amiano Goyarrola, worldwide head of engineering and construction, said: “We’re thrilled to start work on Cowley. This 120MW infrastructure project will provide over 100 green employment during construction and a secure source of green, affordable energy once operational.

We’re thrilled to be building one of the UK’s largest solar PV installations.” 

Keepmoat’s Brilliant New Bricklayers Are Addressing the Construction Skills Deficit

Original Source: Meet Keepmoat’s talented duo of newly qualified bricklayers tackling construction skills shortage

Keepmoat, a top 10 housebuilder, honoured two youngsters who finished their Level 2 bricklaying apprenticeship, a hallmark certificate that is helping the sector fill a talent gap.

A housebuilder hired Evan Browne and Callum Quinn, who started training in October 2022. In conjunction with the National House Building Council (NHBC), Keepmoat offers an 18-month apprenticeship.

For years, the construction industry has struggled with a skills gap. Building companies need 225,000 more workers by 2027 to meet UK building demand due to an ageing workforce and fewer young people joining conventional crafts.

Newcastle 18-year-old Evan says: “I love being outdoors and building things. The bricklaying apprenticeship was great for me because I knew I wanted to work in construction since school.

“I’m glad I finished my apprenticeship and am now certified. Continuing what I love with a wonderful team excites me. My favourite aspect of constructing is seeing a finished home and knowing I helped make it.

NTWDC, a partnership between Keepmoat and Newcastle City Council, is delivering the NHBC Training Hub at Keepmoat’s The Rise development in Scotswood. Both apprentices completed their apprenticeships there.

We’re thrilled to see Evan and Callum finish their apprenticeships and join the next generation of brilliant bricklayers, said Keepmoat Social Value Manager Geoff Scott. I’ve enjoyed watching both apprentices work hard and learn. They were hardworking, resilient, motivated, and had strong communication skills, which we value.

We are happy to see young individuals succeed in their professions at Keepmoat because this field has many advancement chances. It’s rewarding to see young people use industry opportunities. Technical skills are vital, but apprentices’ interpersonal skills are just as important.”

Darryl Stewart, NHBC’s apprentice training programme and hubs manager, added: “It’s great to see Evan and Callum flourishing at the NHBC Training Hub in Newcastle, which is growing the house-building industry’s local talent pool and improving all apprentices’ lives.

Bricklaying is crucial to housebuilding. In order to train the next generation of house builders to produce high-quality homes, NHBC has established training hubs. We have training hubs with realistic work environments, competent educators, and apprenticeships that take 14 months instead of 30 months.

Recruiter Predicts Worsening Construction Skills Shortages

Original Source:  Recruiter warns that construction skills shortages are about to get worse

Construction and engineering recruiting specialist: upcoming skills shortfall will “make 2007’s war for talent look like a water fight”.

A combination of mega construction projects already under way in the UK and those yet to begin, such as water infrastructure developments, the Lower Thames Crossing, the expansion of the National Grid, and the Stonehenge Tunnel, as well as the imminent resurgence of the house-building market, is set to intensify the current talent.

Harris argues projects like HS2 and Hinkley Point are straining the construction workforce.

While employing 30,000 workers, HS2 and its contractors are still hiring hundreds more. The new Hinkley Point nuclear power project won’t be finished this decade, according to EDF. Only in the enabling works stage, Sizewell C is providing hundreds of jobs. Sizewell C could start construction this year and take nine to 12 years, providing thousands of employment.

“The construction industry is already stretched thin,” said Simon Harris. The house-building workforce has shed over half a million people since 2008. The system has minimal slack.”

The current recruiting climate is difficult, but not impossible. However, big construction projects presently ongoing and future projects will worsen the talent gap and cause a manpower crisis. Housebuilders will accelerate as interest rates fall.

“The perfect storm will hit in 2026 when the Lower Thames Crossing opens. Construction firms without a solid long-term workforce plan will struggle. The 2007 talent war will appear like a water fight. As we begin construction on the 1¼ mile Stonehenge tunnel and rebuild eight miles of the A303, the sector’s impact is uncertain.

Construction employed 2.6m people in 2008. Sector employment dropped to 2.1m in 2023.

Randstand thinks production should be restored. Simon Harris said construction businesses must hire half a million people to meet the task. To succeed in the coming years, employers must hire people from diverse backgrounds, fish in more diversified talent pools, pay more for skills, and nurture their own potential. Apprenticeships, new recruit training, and staff upskilling are needed. Instead of prioritising ‘experience’, they must recruit skills first. In certain new occupations, like green skills or AI-based tech, experience is lacking.

Construction of Ontario’s First Rail Megaproject

Original Source: Building Ontario’s first rail megaproject

Iain Thomas FCIOB leads the £10bn Toronto GO Expansion construction. He describes his role in this massive endeavour to Rod Sweet.

After moving from the UK to Canada in 2021, Iain Thomas didn’t expect to head the Americas’ largest transportation network expansion.

“My wife and I travelled the world for a year when we met, and I’d always wanted to live abroad,” he says.

I led major project delivery for SYSTRA UK. As SYSTRA purchased my former employer, TSP Projects, a weekly MD briefing revealed global potential for Canadian project managers.

“I expressed my interest in April 2021, and by August we had sold our house and were moving to Toronto to start our new lives.”

Thomas initially supported the Ontario Line team at SYSTRA Canada, a C$12bn (£7bn) Metrolinx subway line with 15 new stations stretching 15.6km south west to north east through the downtown core to the Ontario Science Centre.

Delivery partner bid

He helped with the final proposal and collaborative behavioural assessments for its bid to be the programme delivery partner on the huge southern Ontario transit project GO Expansion.

Thomas: “In March 2022 we found out our joint venture – Mace, Comtech, and SYSTRA (MCS) – had been successful.

Metrolinx, an Ontario provincial organisation that coordinates and integrates all means of transit in the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area, is our customer.

GO Expansion, estimated at C$18bn (£10.5bn), is Metrolinx’s largest project and the province’s largest transport expenditure. The costs for early and complementary works (E&CW) and on-corridor works are still being finalised.

Thomas became MCS head of projects and construction.

Greater Golden Horseshoe Past Toronto transport planning focused on people entering and leaving downtown.

The scope has expanded to include mobility across the “Greater Golden Horseshoe,” a vast area around Lake Ontario’s western end that includes Oshawa, Barrie, Guelph, Kitchener, Grimsby, and Niagara Falls.

Thomas joked that “not the only one who fancied coming here”.

The Horseshoe’s population rose 57% from 6.5 million to 10.2 million between 1996 and 2021.

Metrolinx plans for 14.9 million residents in 2051.

Programme overview

GO will offer quicker trains, more stations, and seamless linkages to the regional rapid transit network beyond rush hour commuter services.

Metropolitan wants all-day services with trains every 15 minutes or better, says Thomas. They use higher-speed electric trains that can reach 120 km/h and feature quick braking and acceleration to reduce station time.

“The GO programme is unprecedented in Canada.”

Recent early works and off-corridor projects include station renovations, grade separations, bridge and tunnel expansions, and maintenance facilities worth over C$11bn (£6.5bn).

The vintage Toronto subway has many renovations (see below).

Work began five years ago and will last 10-15 years.

Delivery of programmes

Thomas says MCS has two key roles as programme delivery partner.

“First, we’re strengthening Metrolinx’s processes, including systems, technology, and people, so they can deliver megaprojects in the future,” he says.

“We use a ‘sunset model’. Our MCS team leaves at the end of our contract, leaving Metrolinx streamlined and seasoned to handle future megaprojects.

Second, we must supply GO Expansion E&CW. We oversee E & CW projects to ensure they’re on time and on budget for upgrades.”

Thomas says the team helps where needed. He has been acting project director for the C$400m (£233m) Lakeshore East-West grading works, which will widen the rail line to four tracks from three.

Thomas says he will think about site work delivery and site health, safety, and quality every day for six months.

I’m also thinking about ways to coach and advise existing teams to better use Lean control boards, Last Planner, and other methods.

We also need to involve more of the construction industry because the work is so big. We need to increase the number of tier 1 and 2 contractors and simplify contracts so tier 2s will commit.”

Working methods change

Metrolinx can test off site fabrication thanks to GO.

Thomas explains that Kenaidan, one of our contractors, built a platform canopy beside the tracks and hoisted it in pieces over a few nights when the railway was closed. Since fabrication was done on dayshifts, it was safer, faster, and less disruptive to the railway and local residents.

New technologies like autonomous train warning and lookout systems are being tested here. Widely employed on UK Network Rail, they increase corridor work time.

Thomas adds that Metrolinx needs international support to develop its systems, techniques, and teams to proactively drive delivery due to the scope of the programme.

“It’s become a global effort,” he says. Tier 1s working on GO include SYSTRA and Alstom from France, Mace from the UK, Dragados, Ferrovial, and Sacyr from Spain, and Deutsche Bahn from Germany.

“Experienced expats can make a big difference.

I have close contacts to the British Consulate, which is promoting UK-Canada commercial agreements and events for UK firms.

“Perhaps we’ll see you in the Golden Horseshoe soon!”

Toronto subway expansion

Toronto commuters are not forgotten, and the expansion of the old subway system is mind-boggling.

The Scarborough Subway Extension will extend TTC Line 2 roughly 8km into Scarborough, together with the new Ontario Line.

The 8km, 5-station Yonge North Extension will take TTC Line 1 north from Finch Station to Vaughan, Markham and Richmond Hill.

Eglinton Crosstown Light Rapid Transit (LRT) is a 19km, 25-station midtown light-rail link linking east and west Toronto. With 10km of the road underground, it will save travel time by 60%.

The Eglinton Crosstown West Extension will extend 9.2km primarily underground from the proposed Mount Dennis LRT station to Renforth Drive in the west, connecting Scarborough to Mississauga through midtown Toronto.

Boring machines Renny and Rexy are digging the twin tunnel east along Eglinton Avenue West towards the Humber River.

To the north, the 18-stop, 10.3km Finch West LRT will run from Keele Street to Highway 27, then south to Humber College near Pearson International Airport.

Further west, the 18 km north-south Hazel McCallion LRT will connect Brampton and Mississauga.

Many tube and LRT expansions will connect to Horseshoe regional trains.

Summary of today’s construction news

In today’s news, we discussed the  largest solar installation in Sonnedix’s 300MW UK portfolio, constructing Cowley Complex. Sonnedix predicted that it will eliminate 48,000 metric tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions and produce 124,600 MWh of renewable energy each year—enough to power 35,000 households in the United Kingdom. In the meanwhile, two young people were recognised by Keepmoat, a top ten housebuilder, for completing their Level 2 bricklaying apprenticeship. This certification is a trademark of the industry and is contributing to the filling of a talent gap. In October 2022, a homebuilder hired Evan Browne and Callum Quinn, and they began training. As part of their apprenticeship programme, Keepmoat partners with the National House Building Council (NHBC) for 18 months. In addition, the water infrastructure developments, the Lower Thames Crossing, the expansion of the National Grid, the Stonehenge Tunnel, and the impending house-building market revival are all mega construction projects in the UK that are already underway or will soon begin, which is going to intensify the current talent pool. In another development, the £10 billion Toronto GO Expansion is being built under the direction of Iain Thomas FCIOB. He fills Rod Sweet in on his part of this enormous undertaking. It was not in 2021 that Iain Thomas, who had relocated to Canada from the United Kingdom, anticipated being named CEO of the biggest transportation network expansion in the Americas.

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