Once-in-a-lifetime Discovery on a HS2 Site

Costain archaeologists have made a once-in-a-lifetime discovery on a HS2 project site that metal detecting treasure hunters can only dream about.

Potin coins from the Iron Age Hillingdon hoard

Potin coins from the Iron Age Hillingdon hoard

A rare hoard of over 300 Iron Age coins, dating back to the 1st century BC, was discovered at the Hillingdon project site in West London after storm water revealed the stash.

The Costain Skanska joint venture site was undergoing archaeological excavation when the hoard of early coins known as potins was uncovered. The term potin refers to the base metal silver-like alloy used in coins and is typically a mixture of copper, tin and lead.

Costain’s Emma Tetlow, working as Historic Environment Lead for HS2’s main works contractor Skanska Costain Strabag joint venture said: “We were coming to the end of our archaeological work on the site when we found a patch of soil that was a very different colour from what it would be expected to be.

“The patch of soil was dark greeny-blue which suggests oxidized metal, and when we checked more closely, we could see loosely packed metal discs.  This is a once in a lifetime find and allowed us to expand our knowledge of what life could have been like in Hillingdon many centuries ago.”

Known as the ‘Hillingdon hoard’, the find dates back to a period of change as the Romans began to establish themselves in Britain.

The potins are based on coins struck in Marseille, France, about 2,175 years ago. The use of these early coins spread across northern Europe.

In England, their use was commonly linked to Kent, Essex or Hertfordshire.

The value of the hoard has not yet been determined, nor has its future location.

Under the Treasure Act, the Coroner will determine whether the find constitutes ‘treasure’ and if a museum wishes to acquire the potins and recommendations for the find will be made and a potential value placed upon it.

The hoard was found during HS2 works on land that was occupied temporarily. HS2 is not making any claim on the hoard and under the Treasure Act archaeologists are not entitled to a share of any reward.

Duncan Wilson, Historic England Chief Executive, said: “They say money talks so what can this unexpected discovery tell us?

“It takes us back to the tumultuous time of Julius Caesar’s conquest of Gaul. Reaching Britain in 55 and 54 BC he observed the locals using ‘bronze’ coins, an innovation they had adopted not long before through cross-channel migration and trade.”

Behavioral Based Interview Questions

In an increasingly competitive market behavioral based interview questions are common place.

(Or BBQs as they’re known) are where the candidate is asked to describe situations where they were able to apply specific skills, training, or talents to solve problems or address job-related challenges and are excellent for assessing a candidates skills. 

Examples of Great Behavioural Based Interview Questions:

49 Examples of Behavioral Based Interview Questions for Every Situation

Below are the most common behavioral interview questions that you should ask your candidates. These questions will uncover detailed information about a candidate’s direct experience dealing with situations that matter.

Dealing with Stress

  1. What has been the most stressful situation you’ve had to deal with at work
  2. How did you handle it?
    2. What actions have you taken to prevent a situation from becoming too stressful for you and your colleagues?
    3. When situations become stressful at work, what do you do to alleviate that stress?

Ability to Adapt

1. How would you describe your transition from college to professional work? How did you handle it?
2. Tell me about a situation where you’ve had to adapt to changes beyond your control. How did you handle it?
3. Give me an example of a time where you’ve had to collaborate with someone who had a different working style. 4. 4. How did you adjust to ensure you met project objectives and goals?
5. Have you ever worked for managers with different management styles? How did you adjust to each?

Problem Solving

1. Describe a project where you were asked to use your analytical skills. What was the scope of the work and your role?
2. Tell me about a situation where you had to analyze information. How did you go about creating your analysis? What were your recommendations?
3. Tell me about a project at work where you had to solve a difficult problem. What did you do? What was your process? What was the outcome? Do you wish you did anything differently?

Attention to Detail

1. Has there ever been a time where you’ve discovered an error by a colleague? What did you do and how did you fix the error?
2. How do you ensure that you have the right information for a customer or prospect?
3. What is your process for doing research? How do you ensure that you do not overlook any details?

Client Focused Questions

1. Tell me about a time you’ve had to deal with a frustrated or irate customer. What did you do? How did you resolve the situation?
2. Have you ever inherited a customer? What steps did you take to establish a good relationship?
3. What is your process for initiating a call with a business prospect? How do you convert them into closed business?
4. Have you ever gone above and beyond for a customer? What did you do? What was their reaction?

Communication-Based Questions

1. Tell me about a recent success giving a presentation to your team or management? How did it go? What could have been improved?
2. Have you ever had to present to a person/or group with little time to prepare? How did it go? What were the key takeaways from that experience?
3. Have you ever had to promote/evangelize an idea to your coworkers? How did you get them to support your idea?
4. Tell me about an experience where you had to communicate with someone via email where the situation didn’t go as planned. What went wrong? How did you clear up communication and resolve the issues?
5. Are there any situations where you’ve specifically chosen to communicate in person rather than instant messaging or email? Why did you choose this? How did the situation turn out?

Questions to Assess Creativity

1. Tell me about a recent problem that you solved by thinking “outside of the box”? What was the outcome? Were you happy with it? Why?
2. Have you ever improved upon any existing work processes? What was the process? How did you improve it? What did your coworkers or management think?
3. Have you ever brought any innovative ideas to your team? How was it received? If the reception wasn’t favorable, then how did you handle that?

Decision Making Questions

1. Have you ever had to make decisions without all of the information you needed? How did you handle that?
2. Provide an example of a time where you had to come to a decision quickly. What were the challenges you faced in making the decision and how did you make it?
3. What’s an example of a business decision that you regretted? How did you come to that conclusion and what would you do differently?

Questions Related to Goals and Initiatives

1. How do you go about creating short and long-term goals for yourself and your team? What metrics do you use to keep everyone accountable?
2. Provide an example of a time where you had to come to a decision quickly. What were the challenges you faced in making the decision and how did you make it?
3. Describe a project where you were the owner. What challenges did you face and how did you overcome them?
4. Tell me about a scenario where you discovered a problem that could become a potential opportunity? What did you do and what was the result?
5. Tell me about a project you initiated. Why did you initiate it? What were the results?

Questions to Assess Employee Integrity and Honesty

1. Has there ever been a time where your integrity was challenged? How did you handle that particular situation?
2. Tell me about a time where you experienced a loss by doing something that was right?
3. Describe a professional situation where you thought honest was inappropriate. How did you react and manage the situation?
4. Have there ever been any policies at work that you did not agree with? Why?


1. What is the most difficult team that you’ve had to lead? What was the project? What were the challenges you faced and how did you overcome them?
2. What do you consider to be your greatest leadership accomplishment? How did you reach this achievement?
3. What are the biggest challenges you’ve faced building/growing a team? What traits do you look for in team members?
4. Have you ever had to deal with toxic employees that were hurting the effectiveness of your team? How did you deal with that particular individual? What steps did you take?

Interpersonal Skills

1. What do you think are the most important skills necessary to build successful business relationships? How have you leveraged these skills in your career?
2. Describe a situation where you had a conflict with a coworker and how you dealt with it. What was the outcome? 3. What were the most important skills needed to address the situation? Were you happy with the outcome?

Interview Questions to Assess Sales Skills

1. Describe a situation where you had to create a customer base from scratch. What steps did you take?
2. What is your greatest achievement in sales? How did you reach that outcome?
3. Describe the process you went through to convince a skeptical prospect to choose your product/service?

Tenacity and Resilience

1. Tell me about a work-related setback and challenge that you faced. How did you deal with and move past it?
2. Have you ever found yourself in a competitive situation at work? How did you deal with it?
3. When have you seen your tenacity and determination really pay off in a professional setting? What was the situation and the outcome?

Cementation Skanska win 1km long HS2 retaining box

Cementation Skanska has secured the £93m job to create one of the largest current open-cut retaining boxes in Europe – equivalent in size to four football pitches.

HS2 approach route to Euston station

HS2 approach route to Euston station

The huge piling job for HS2 consortium Skanska Costain Strabag will involve installing 2,000 piles along the near 1km long site that will house rail lines coming into Euston station for the new HS2 railway.

More than 800 piles will be installed in creating the new Euston scissor box that will carry the new running lines.

Works will also be carried out to construct some 700 piles for two new bridge structures – Hampstead Road Bridge and Granby Terrace Bridge – that will take traffic over the new lines.

This is in addition to 418 piles for the Euston Throat Retained Cut, an extension to the scissor box, and 106 piles for the new Euston Cavern shaft.

As part of the project, the team will be developing new techniques to reduce carbon, including through the use of low carbon concrete.

“We are delighted to be working on this iconic project,” said Operations Director Paul Wiltcher.

“The project provides work for around 100 of our piling and ground engineering team who will be carrying out the works through to 2024. ”

It is the third major piling job to be awarded on the project as work steps up a gear for phase one.

A joint venture between Bauer and Keller has been awarded a contract to deliver geotechnical work along a 80km stretch of HS2 between the Chilterns and Warwickshire.

The joint venture announced it had formally signed off the £95m deal today with C2 and C3 section main works consortium Eiffage, Kier, Ferrovial Construction and BAM Nuttall.

At peak production, the works will require over 200 highly skilled experts in ground engineering and foundations, working in a number of varied site locations.

The largest deal so far has been nabbed by Keller and VSL International joint venture.

This secured a £167m contract to deliver geotechnical work for C1 section main contractor Align.

KVJV’s scope of work is to construct the piled foundations for the viaducts, grouting works, retaining structures for four ventilation shafts, and ground improvement works for the execution of the tunnel cross passages.

At peak of the production it will require 270 highly skilled people working on site.

Construction Activity is set for double-digit growth in 2021

Construction activity is set for double-digit growth this year as the industry continues its strong rebound from the impact of Covid.

But crystal ball gazers at the Construction Product Association have downgraded growth forecasts slightly fearing impacts from supply constraints for key imported construction products and uncertainty around demand for housing new builds, and commercial space.

Construction activity accelerated in the first quarter of the year, although the story varies from sector to sector.

Infrastructure was least affected by the initial lockdown, and is set to motor ahead 29%, reaching its highest level on record.

This will be driven by activity on major projects such as HS2, as well as activity on long-term frameworks in water, roads, electricity and broadband sectors.

Key points

  • Infrastructure output to rise 29% in 2021 and 6% in 2022
  • Private housing output rises 14% in 2021
  • Commercial output at the end of 2023 to be 10.5% lower than in 2019
  • Private housing RM&I to grow by 12% in 2021
  • Public housing repair, maintenance and improvement to rise by 15% in 2021

Extensions to the stamp duty holiday, Help to Buy and job support schemes are expected to help sustain demand in private housing and private housing rm&i in 2021.

Private housing is expected to continue its strong recovery with the Chancellor’s mortgage guarantee scheme likely to enable demand in the general housing market.

Coupled with expectations of rising house prices during the year, starts activity is forecast to gather pace in 2022.

CPA economics director Noble Francis, said: “While outlook is largely positive, the recovery in commercial – the third-largest construction sector – is expected to be muted given a lack of major investment in new projects, particularly in Central London.

“Questions remain over future demand of commercial space, particularly in offices and retail, which may be converted into residential or warehousing and logistics, if homeworking and online spending persists in the long-term.

“This may hinder the ability of construction activity to increase in line with our forecast.

“Furthermore, concerns remain whether the high levels of demand for housing new build and rm&i can be maintained after the government stimulus and policy measures end on 30 September, particularly the furloughing and self-employment income schemes and stamp duty holiday.”


Now the UK’s lockdown exit plans have been set out and as the economy gradually starts to open again, many businesses will see this as a return towards normality. But in many ways, the world of work will look very different post-Covid. Alongside the changes the pandemic has forced on us, we now have a chance to create a better labour market – and one important way we can do this is by making it more inclusive and making sure companies provide opportunities for a more diverse range of people.

There has been a great deal of progress on diversity and inclusion in recent years. In the REC’s new Recruitment and recovery study, we found that almost two thirds (64%) of businesses believed they were doing well at reducing unconscious bias. But we all know that there is much more still to do. We’ve all seen the gender pay gap statistics and the studies showing how CVs with a white-sounding name are far more likely to get a response than those with a name from an ethnic minority – even when the content is identical.

Our Recruitment and recovery report also found some worrying signs of a lack of focus from employers. Just three in ten companies said that they were focusing more on increasing the diversity of their workforce, and 45% of SMEs admitted that increasing the diversity of their staff was not a priority. No wonder less than half (44%) of the British public thought that the process of recruitment was inclusive to people like them.

The recruitment process can be an incredibly important tool in improving inclusion in a business. Anonymising CVs, using diverse interview panels, offering flexible working options from the outset – all of these can be valuable steps to increasing the range of candidates who will apply for a role or improving the selection process. But while both businesses and the public say that these are important in principle, in practice they are rare.

This is where professional recruitment businesses can prove their worth. Many businesses have taken their eye off the ball on inclusion – understandably due to the pandemic – but it is up to their recruitment partners to remind them how important this issue is and the many ways that it can benefit both their bottom line and the people working for them. And we know this can work – two in three (63%) companies said that working with a recruitment agency had helped them increase the diversity of new hires.

For recruiters, this means helping clients to audit and evaluate their selection and hiring processes regularly, specifically with diversity and inclusion in mind, as well as advising them on whether they might need to bring in tools like unconscious bias training for hiring managers, anonymising CVs, and standardised selection criteria that can help judge which candidate is right for a role, no matter their background.

With so much change already having happened in the labour market and more on the horizon, now is the perfect time to change things for the better, and make the future of work a more inclusive one.page9image34586816page9image34594496page9image34591616page9image34590464

Self-employed worker numbers 13% down on pre-Covid level

Numbers of self-employed workers are slowly returning to the pre-Christmas level despite worries that many eastern Europeans would not return after the break.

According to the construction industry’s biggest payer of subcontractors Hudson Contract, the number of tradespeople on its books stood at 87% of pre-pandemic levels in January.

The figure was 90% before the festive break when most construction sites shut for a fortnight.

Ian Anfield, managing director, said: “We were concerned that Covid would prevent eastern Europeans getting back to Britain after Christmas.

“We also heard reports from some clients that some tradespeople were using the self-employment support scheme to take extra paid holiday at the Chancellor’s expense.

“While this is most certainly happening in some cases, on the whole the return to work has been at the same level as in previous years.”

But latest pay trends show earnings are running on average 13% down on January 2020 at an all-trade average of £838.

Freelance bricklayer, steel erectors and surfacing subbies have seen the highest year-on-year falls.

Key trades national average weekly pay
BRICKLAYING£ 767£ 648-16%
ELECTRICAL£ 1,300£ 965-26%
INSULATION£ 933£ 884-5%
JOINERY£ 1,131£ 915-19%
MECHANICAL & ENGINEERING£ 1,229£ 1,075-13%
PLASTERING£ 801£ 695-13%
PLUMBING£ 1,322£ 938-29%
ROOFING£ 779£ 694-11%
SHOP FITTING£ 1,166£ 1,073-8%

Chancellor is being urged to abandon VAT changes which could cause a cash-flow crisis across construction.

Construction Leadership Council makes last minute plea to Rishi Sunak

Construction Leadership Council makes last minute plea to Rishi Sunak

The Construction Leadership Council is hoping for a last-minute reprieve ahead of the Spring Budget, warning it could snuff out the construction-led recovery.

More than 150,000 construction companies are facing a 20% drop in cash flow when planned VAT changes come into force at the start of March.

The Chancellor of the Exchequer will deliver his Budget statement in the House of Commons on 3 March.

The “domestic reverse charge” change means companies in the construction supply chain will no longer receive their 20% VAT payment when they submit bills.

The VAT cash will instead be paid direct to HMRC by the customer receiving the service who will reclaim it in the normal way.

In a letter to the Chancellor, chairman of the CLC, Andy Mitchell writes: “Our industry remains in extremely challenging times as we continue to adapt to ongoing Covid-19 rules, mitigate the impact of Brexit and prepare for the forthcoming implementation of rule changes on IR35 and the Construction Industry Scheme.

“It is also important to note that by continuing to operate the industry has suffered a serious financial impact as a result of project delays and costs incurred in adapting working practices.

“This has resulted in many contractual disputes which our monitoring suggests are currently growing and which will accelerate further still.

“We are currently quantifying the impact; however, it is reasonable to assume that without further financial support many companies will become insolvent.”

He adds: “The implementation of Reverse charge VAT in April will restrict cashflow in our industry, especially to the smallest firms, at an extremely critical financial period for many businesses.

“This policy risks reversing any recovery industry has made from Covid-19 and will limit the scope for protecting and creating jobs across the UK.”

HS2 Introducing Largest Project-Wide Digital Passport

HS2 is introducing the largest project-wide digital passport system for workers allowing it to keep tabs on skills and health and safety.

HS2 to implement UK's first ever project-wide health and safety passport

HS2 to implement UK’s first ever project-wide health and safety passport

It will be the first time in the UK that workforce data will be available to view across a major multi-site infrastructure project in one consolidated platform.

The new cloud-based central database will ensure only workers with the correct credentials and skills are permitted access to sites, as well as collect whole workforce data allowing HS2 to map competency and track health and safety assessments

Also where suppliers and operatives are working across multiple locations, the new system will be able to flag individual fatigue risks across the project.

HS2 chiefs hope the collection and synchronisation of data from local level to project-wide will help to ensure consistency of standards and performance.

The information collected can also be anonymised and provide a learning legacy for future major projects.

The workforce management software solution developed by Midlands-based Biosite will link biometric data directly to operative information and site access for real-time visibility and traceability.

Workers will be required to complete a central online pre-induction before undertaking a local site induction and provide biometric information to generate their global identification or digital ‘passport’.

The new digital health and safety passport system will be rolled out initially by all of HS2’s Main Works Civils Contractors to share vital health and safety information across contractors.

Emma Head, HS2’s Safety and Assurance Director said: “We aim to lead by innovation at HS2 and the new Health and Safety Passport System is a pioneering way for us to further our best practice approach to workforce health and safety management.

“We are pleased to be bringing workforce management for complex projects such as HS2 to the next level.”

The HS2 HSPS initiative is scheduled to go live in the spring.

Construction Sites to Stay Open in the latest Lockdown

Construction sites will continue to operate during the latest lockdown which will be in force until at least the middle of February.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson confirmed a third national lockdown on Monday night with people urged to work from home wherever possible.

But the government confirmed that “you can only leave home for work purposes where it is unreasonable for you to do your job from home, including but not limited to people who work within critical national infrastructure, construction or manufacturing that require in-person attendance.”

Guidance added that construction ” is essential to keeping the country operating.”

Tradespeople can also work in other people’s homes and builders merchants and building products suppliers will be able to keep stores open.

Former construction minister Nadhim Zahawi is now in charge of the vaccine rollout and has been set the target of vaccinating 13.9m people in the four highest risk groups by the middle of February.