We ended 2023 with our Christmas Reception where we gave the following parliamentarians their Fellowship cartoons to celebrate the completion of their Fellowships. We asked Liz Twist MP and Henry Smith MP to reflect upon their Fellowships and what they have taken away from their experiences.
Liz Twist MP
Liz Twist MP has been the Labour Member of Parliament for Blaydon since 2017. Having previously worked in the Trade Union movement, Liz undertook an IPT Fellowship to learn more about the work being done to support the Mental Health of workers in the construction sector. Liz visited a variety of businesses throughout her Fellowship to hear their insights on the subject including Galliford Try, Jacobs, Berkeley Group and Tideway.
Why did you sign up for the IPT Fellowship Programme and how did you first hear about it?
I signed up for the IPT Fellowship Programme following my attendance at IPT breakfast meetings, which I found really interesting. A particular session focussing on mental health and construction spoke to my work as Chair of the APPG on Suicide and Self-Harm Prevention.
Construction workers are between three and four times more likely to take their own lives than workers in other sectors. It was particularly shocking to learn that construction workers are ten times more likely to die by suicide than in a workplace accident.
Following this meeting, I decided that I wanted to know more about the issues that had been raised and how the industry was responding to this challenge. Working towards an IPT Fellowship focussing on mental health and construction seemed like the ideal opportunity to do so.
What were your highlights during the IPT Fellowship Programme?
It has been fantastic to have had the opportunity to meet people involved in supportive mental health activities right across the sector, from major construction projects through to housebuilding, and to identify opportunities for collaboration – whether that’s for work within the industry and sector itself or within Westminster, where it’s really important to raise awareness of this issue. I’ve really valued seeing examples of good practice that is taking place on the ground within the sector and getting to know the specific wellbeing challenges that construction workers face.
On a less serious note – having some great hard hat and PPE photos on top of tall buildings!
How has the IPT Fellowship Programme helped you in your role as a parliamentarian?
Completing my Fellowship has given me access to businesses and other organisations who can help inform the work that I’m doing in parliament, particularly within the APPG on Suicide and Self Harm Prevention. I’ve organised ‘drop-in’ events for MPs with organisations such as Mates in Mind, a charity working to promote mental health within industry, and Jacobs, who developed One Million Lives, a free mental health check-in tool for employees and their families which they have now rolled out for public use. These events have allowed other MPs to engage with the issue of mental health in construction and hopefully, to go on to raise it with businesses and organisations within their own constituencies.
More broadly, getting to see first-hand the wider challenges being faced within the construction industry and occupational mental health has informed my work in debates and in the APPG.
Henry Smith MP
Henry Smith is the Conservative MP for Crawley, having been elected at the 2010 General Election. Henry decided to join the IPT Fellowship scheme in 2021 specifically looking at Sustainable Aviation. His Fellowship saw him visit multiple businesses in the Aviation sector from Boeing, Airbus, and Cranfield Aerospace to name just a few.
I first heard about the IPT through the roundtable policy discussion events in that they hold in Parliament attended by a mixture of businesses representatives and parliamentarians. These events illustrated to me the work that the IPT does in bringing together the worlds of business and parliament in an educational, non-lobbying, non-partisan way.
The highlights of my programme were onsite visits to experience projects in action and meet those fascinating individuals and teams involved in delivering them. These included my visits to Cranfield Aerospace in Bedford, another to Airbus’ Surrey Satellite in Guildford, one to Satavia in Cambridge, and a visit to Inmarsat’s HQ in London.
The programme helps MPs escape the ‘Westminster bubble’ to engage with those driving our economy so future policy and legislation can hopefully be supportive. Despite being in my 50s it was an ongoing educational experience. The knowledge that I have gained on the scheme has helped me in my role as a legislator and has given me an insight into Aviation sector specifically around sustainability.