There’s no getting away from the fact that demolition projects can be disruptive – but that doesn’t mean the industry can’t offer a wide variety of benefits for local communities.
Of course, nobody working in the demolition industry needs to be persuaded of the long-term advantages we bring to local areas. Demolition projects are often a vital part of urban renewal plans, for example, clearing the way for the regenerative benefits of a revitalised environment.
McKinsey has highlighted the urgency surrounding urban transformation brought on by the pandemic. Its report on the Bloomberg New Economy Forum notes that while cities still have a prominent part to play in our lives, we need to rethink what city centres look like – for example by making shopping more experiential in a way that can’t be replicated when making an online purchase.
While demolition plays a huge and necessary role in that kind of regeneration, it’s completely understandable that local people, facing short-term disruptions to their lives, aren’t always inclined to take a broader, long-term view of the situation.
As such, it’s important that the demolition industry takes the initiative to proactively demonstrate and expand upon the ways in which we contribute to the communities we serve.
One of the most tangible and immediately impactful ways of doing this is to employ local labour for the various non-permanent roles that each project needs to fill.
It goes without saying that providing a source of employment within a given community is going to have positive ramifications.
Offering jobs to local people will stimulate the community’s economy and forge closer connections between demolition firms and the people around them – and there’s scope for firms to make a real difference in that arena. Hiring ex-military personnel, for example – as we plan to do on an upcoming project – could have a hugely positive impact on a deserving group.
According to pre-pandemic research from Barclays, around 22 per cent of armed forces leavers face employment difficulties. Stepping in to help resolve this issue is completely within the grasp of demolition firms up and down the country.
Alternatively, firms might consider employing younger, less experienced people for some of its junior positions.
After all, the industry can be highly rewarding, but – beyond childhood images of wrecking balls and explosions – it’s not one that many young people will have considered as a career path.
In setting young people’s feet on this path, demolition firms can contribute towards changing the current youth unemployment problem.
The House of Lords Youth Unemployment Committee has just recently pointed out that one in eight under 25s are neither working, in education, nor in training – leaving the stage set for the industry to give back to the community in an instantly substantive way.
Local councils have recently woken up to benefits like these, with some new projects requiring the employment of local people – ten per cent of the workforce, in some cases – in order to satisfy and discharge planning conditions.
But firms are under no obligation to limit themselves to these minimum requirements – especially considering the advantages that local labour can offer demolition projects.
Beneficial though employing local labour can be for communities, this isn’t just an empty gesture towards CSR. There are, in fact, a wealth of varied advantages for demolition firms which embrace local labour.
Taking a broad view, there are wide-ranging implications for the environmental impact of projects which employ local people. With several employees living close to demolition sites, the carbon emissions associated with commuting will be reduced or eliminated altogether.
This is of great benefit for firms looking to reduce their carbon footprint – something we should all be looking to embrace. According to the International Energy Agency, road vehicles account for three quarters of all emissions, so taking steps to limit their usage is a fantastically beneficial aspect of local labour.
Leaving aside the wider environmental ramifications, local labour can also provide practical, on-the-job advantages to firms prepared to embrace it.
Employing local people allows firms to access new pools of talent and different skill sets, which isn’t necessarily possible if firms choose to ferry existing employees to faraway sites on a regular basis.
These different skill sets come to the fore when – returning to a previous example – firms hire ex-military personnel. Military veterans are trained to operate in high-risk environments, making them well suited to the demolition industry – and a prime instance of the transferable skills that local labour can offer.
Clearly, then, the practice of hiring locally has extensive ramifications – for the environment, for local economies, for local people in need of good employment in a rewarding profession, and for an industry whose long-term efforts to improve local areas can be matched by an immediate and tangible contribution to the communities it serves.