For too long developers have been allowed to call most, if not all, of the shots when they arrive in Portsmouth. They usually come with big promises of providing lots of jobs for ‘local’ people, but often the majority of them goes to outsiders.
That appears to be about to change and Portsmouth City Council deserves credit for introducing a scheme which should guarantee work for people living within the city’s boundaries.
The authority has taken the bold step of insisting developers must now offer apprenticeships, work experience placements and contracts to local people once work begins.
They will also have to forge partnerships with schools and offer taster days to pupils considering a career in the construction industry.
The new rules are part of a ‘client-based approach’ licence which the council has signed in conjunction with The National Skills Academy for Construction.
Of course, there are some benefits of bringing in highly-skilled workers from outside to push building projects along – their expertise can only rub off on youngsters.
But hopefully the days of convoys of white vans packed with labourers heading into the city will now be a thing of the past.
In a city once proud of its construction and engineering skills, thanks to centuries of shipbuilding and other associated dockyard work, we now need to produce a new generation of qualified manual workers.
At the same time this scheme should go some way to cutting the number of jobless in the city.
As Linda Taylor, the city council’s employment initiatives manager, says: ‘Contractors like local people to do a job because if they live close by it is less difficult for them to get to work.
‘We have got all these people that are ready to get back to work and we could now provide pre-employment training for them.’
Of course, we shall be keeping a close eye on this scheme, making sure developers are keeping their word. But this certainly offers a building block for the future of Portsmouth.