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Search Construction and Vinci Construction UK - ​Working together to build six temporary hospitals during COVID-19​

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Vinci Construction UK, part of the global Vinci Group, is a specialist civil engineering, construction and facilities management company, employing more than 72000 people across the world. They are known for sustainability, innovation, and structures that are technologically complex. In 2003 Vinci teamed up with Sir Robert McAlpine to form IHP (Integrated Health Projects), a partnership dedicated to delivering a comprehensive development, design, construction and facilities management service to the healthcare sector.

When coronavirus hit the UK and the Government launched Project Nightingale, there was no one better placed to take on the task.

Building a hospital from scratch

Project Nightingale was a complex infrastructure project that involved renovating pre-existing buildings into temporary hospital and healthcare facilities, specifically designed to care for highly infectious COVID-19 patients.

When the Nightingale scheme was launched, and IHP was required to support the building of six hospitals in the North of England, they knew it needed a recruitment partner that could move quickly, and was highly connected and adaptable. Large numbers of construction workers were necessary, with enough industry experience and training to be able to convert these very different buildings into fully functioning COVID-19 wards.

Taking place during the peak of lockdown, there were clear concerns about recruitment. Would workers be reluctant to risk their personal health to pick up a contract during a pandemic? The project was also very time sensitive. The Nightingale hospitals needed to be ready as quickly as possible, but millions of people had already been quarantined.

Reaching the right workers, in the areas required, was no small feat for Vinci. So, they turned to Search Construction to help.

The recruitment drive begins

Having worked with Search Construction on multiple projects in the past, Vinci knew they were in good hands.

For Search Construction, the pressure was on to source enough staff to support the project from their roster of construction workers. A concerted effort was made by the internal recruitment team to ensure there were enough temporary employees to complete the transformation of these hospitals, and that they were all ready to start accepting patients within 10 weeks of the announcement. The largest of these was Manchester Central, which was converted into a hospital with the capacity to accept 750 patients at any one time.

Finding the right workers wasn’t the only task at hand. There was also the problem of sourcing the correct protective equipment to prepare workers for working safely on site.

“Due to the nature of the pandemic and the time scales we were operating in, we needed to make sure that every worker we brought onto the site was equipped with properly fitting PPE.

On a usual project, this would not be an issue, but the amount of workers we were recruiting and the sheer demand for PPE in general, meant that Search Construction were sourcing, purchasing and fitting masks in order to ensure the protection of all our staff involved in the Nightingale project,” Kirsty McErlain, Managing Consultant

Search leads the way

For Search Construction, this project was unprecedented, and one that was incredibly important given the situation. The team went into overdrive

“We filled a staggering number of positions in such a small amount of time. Over a period of three weeks, and whilst most of the country was still in lockdown, Search Construction placed 125 operatives across six sites, to work on a 24-hour basis until the project was complete,” said Kirsty McErlain, Managing Consultant

The vast majority of those employed were already known to Search Construction, which helped with the overwhelming amount of admin required. From tax forms to time sheets and everything in between, Search handled it all so that Vinci could focus on the task at hand.

Work started on 28th March, and all hospitals were complete, ready to be staffed and to start accepting infected patients within the required time period. Vinci also made the decision to move some of the temporary staff onto other sites after the Nightingale project was completed.

“The support we received from Kirsty and Search Construction has been fantastic in supplying our temporary labour, often at very short notice and at unsociable hours. All the teams are running flat out and their commitment to helping us ou especially on these emergency contracts has been amazing.

Kirsty really has gone above and beyond what we could ever expect and I speak on behalf of all the Project Management Teams when I say a huge thank you to her, and all of the Search Construction team,” said Diane Ashworth, Regional Office Manager at Vinci Construction UK.

Get in touch with Search Construction today to discuss your latest recruitment projects.

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