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Construction and the built environment

Construction and the Built Environment

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We talk to the Managing Director of Toxteth based Bara Management about how he is reaching out to young people to bust myths, break down barriers and illustrate how construction is inclusive…

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The construction industry has skills gaps and a wide range of opportunities for young people. We talk to the Managing Director of Toxteth based Bara Management about how he is reaching out to young people to bust myths, break down barriers and illustrate how construction is inclusive.

Stephen O Okoro has been involved in construction since 1993, studying construction in Liverpool then Quantity Surveying at City of London’s Westminster University. He is a member of the Chartered Institute of Builders and a qualified lecturer in Construction. He left Liverpool in 1996 as his passion for building a career in the industry in Liverpool was hampered by a lack of inclusivity. Inspired by the diversity in London he left to pursue opportunities he felt were not available in Liverpool.

“I left Liverpool because I felt there was a lack of job opportunities reaching people from my community. Liverpool in the early 90s felt like there was like a concrete ceiling where you could not see your way forward. Racism was a lot more rife than it is now. It was grim and I knew I really wanted more and there was more out there,”

Stephen O Okoro

During his 20 years working in construction in London he discovered a passion and talent for training people. He returned to Liverpool in 2021 where he owns and runs Bara Management Ltd, a specialist training agency for young people in property, construction and the built environment.

“With all the experience I gained in London and mentoring and developing young people, I wanted to come back to give back to my city and create opportunities I never had when I lived in Liverpool. I understand a lot of these opportunities are still not here now. That’s why it’s important for me to bring them back”.

Stephen O Okoro

Bara Management Limited is a training provider with a difference. It focusses on breaking down barriers and recruiting young people from different backgrounds and cultures. Stephen brings his understanding and experience of how to reach different groups across Liverpool that either are not aware of the opportunities available or who have negative perceptions about the industry.  He trains around 15 people a year from black communities, Bulgarian and Romanian communities, as well as white English communities, and attracts women into the industry too. Increasingly, the construction industry is turning to him to help build diversity into their workforce.

Stephen tells us the construction industry has changed a lot since he struggled to break the concrete ceiling in the 90’s. However, while the industry has changed the perception of the industry amongst young people has not.

“Construction still has stigmas attached to them that are not correct, but present barriers to them considering a career in this exciting sector. They believe it is a sector for white males, full of banter and language that can be offensive. They also believe it has a mob culture and that progression is about who you know and not based upon your contribution and work ethic.”

Stephen O Okoro

Bara Management are helping to break down these myths amongst young people. In addition to training adults, the training provider is focussing on 16 to 19 year olds. They are getting them into construction and development, giving them experience in estimating tenders, project and construction management.

“The construction industry is much more aware of the need to be inclusive and there is now a big gap between perception and the reality across the industry. We are going into schools, community centres and specific areas across the Liverpool City Region to engage with the young people the industry is missing from their workforce. We present construction in terms of property and built environment. These terms have more traction as they do not have immediate construction connotations. We present training programmes that couple up young people with employers in the industry and support from us throughout their journey into full time employment,” Stephen tells us.

Stephen O Okoro

Stephen not only manages the company, but is also an active trainer delivering NVQ qualifications in estimating and tendering as well as CIOB site supervisory and management programs.

“We are reaching out to year 11 pupils and attracting them into the construction market. We address the barriers to joining the industry and help provide them with the skills and qualifications to progress. We are also skilled at understanding the geographic barriers young people have and how they are reluctant to train in areas that are unfamiliar related to tribal and racial differences.”

Stephen O Okoro

Bara Management are making a difference. Their trainees are diverse and organisations are looking to them for new diverse talent.  

Stephen O Okoro

There is a gap between reality and perception in the construction industry that needs to be plugged to ensure young people select this sector in preference to other sectors that appear more inclusive such as IT, Law and medical professions.  

Bara Management are dedicated to plugging this gap and keen to work with others to encourage new diverse talent into a sector they are passionate about.