Middlesbrough’s prestigious Centre Square development is supporting the careers of thousands of people, including those who are building it.
Around 1,000 office staff will soon be working in the project’s first two buildings. In 2023 they will be joined by 450 employees of AXA UK who will be moving into the next building, Six Centre Square, which is already taking shape.
Further ahead, a future phase of the development is expected to accommodate another 1,000 workers.
Six Centre Square is being built by Bowmer+Kirkland (B+K), which has a North East base near Sunderland. A dozen sub-contractors, who are located within 50 miles of the construction site are also working on the project. Their contracts are worth more than £4.8m.
Twenty-three-year Danielle Blakey from Hartlepool started working for B+K when building work began in Centre Square in 2018. She is a Trainee Quantity Surveyor and, in addition to her job, is in the final year of her Quantity Surveying degree course at Northumbria University in Newcastle. Danielle is also studying for a professional qualification.
“I would describe the quantity surveyor as the lawyer and banker on a job. I deal with the contracts and the money,” she said.
Danielle was studying Construction and the Built Environment at Hartlepool College of Further Education when B+K visited on a recruitment drive. Five students were selected for interview and Danielle got the job.
In October at an awards ceremony run by Generation for Change – the young professional voice of the UK built environment industry – Danielle was highly commended in the Trainee of the Year category.
She is an active member of the National Association of Women in Construction (NAWIC), which aims to inspire young women to consider careers in construction, and visits schools and colleges to talk about her job.
Danielle mentors students – helping them write their CVs and prepare for interviews – and at Middlesbrough College took part in a panel discussion about stereotyping in the male-dominated construction industry where last year only around 15% of more than two million workers were women.
“I would recommend construction to anyone. There are so many opportunities for people – for both men and women,” she said. “I’ve met really nice people and been fortunate to work on some great jobs. Until you work in the industry I don’t think you can fully appreciate what goes into a project like this.”
As well as working on the three Centre Square buildings to date, Danielle was also part of the B+K team which built the new civic centre in Sunderland. “There’s a fantastic feeling of pride and achievement to know that you played a part in creating such great buildings,” she said.
B+K’s North East and Scotland Regional Director Ed Besford said Danielle is a major asset for the company because of the quality of her work and the example she sets.
“Danielle has only been with us a relatively short time but is already playing a key role in a major project. She is also a great ambassador for both our business and the construction industry as a whole,” he said.
The Centre Square developer Mark Ashall, of Ashall Projects, said the scheme will continue to have a far-reaching impact on jobs and the local economy, generating an estimated £120m every year.
“It means young people like Danielle get their first step on the career ladder and companies such as XPS – one of the first Centre Square occupiers – has the space to grow its business and take on more people.
“All the while those building Centre Square and the people who already work in the offices are using nearby shops, cafes, restaurants and bars and that trade is only going to grow as more companies move here.”
Six Centre Square is on schedule to be finished next year and a further phase of the development has already been given outline planning permission by Middlesbrough Council.