It’s been well documented that there is a skills shortage in the UK construction industry. Getting young people into construction has proved challenging, and with many knowledgeable and experienced workers due to retire in the next five years, the skills shortage is only set to increase. Both government and industry need to address this issue and not just in the short term; failing to attract more young people to the industry will have major knock on effects to our housing provision, cities and economy.
Construction has an image problem; people view it as an old fashioned and dirty industry for men. We need to start challenging these perceptions.
The industry is evolving with the increasing use of BIM, off-site construction techniques and focus on green technologies and suitability. There is also a huge variety of different construction related careers – from project management to craft-based roles. If more young people are made of aware of these opportunities and developments, the industry will have far greater appeal to those who currently view it as not very dynamic.
In countries like Spain and Germany, construction is held in high regard with young people actively looking to work in the sector. If other countries don’t have an image problem, the UK can work towards not having one too.
Cultural change takes time but we can start this shift by becoming better at communicating.
One of the best ways to communicate with young people is by engaging with school careers advisors and teachers. 35% of careers advisors believe a career in construction in unattractive. There is also a lack of resources and funding with only 14% of schools in England saying they have the resources to fulfil legal requirements to offer impartial careers advice. With this in mind, we cannot just leave it to schools to attract the next generation workforce.
I recently led a workshop for girls interested in a career in architecture and engineering, giving pupils an insight into what the industry has to offer and the different career paths they could pursue. Pupils benefit immensely when they are talking to someone working in the industry; I wish I had that opportunity when I was at school. Through careers fairs, work experience placements and workshops, we can begin to open up dialogue with both teachers and young people.
Companies also need to think about how they make entry level jobs appealing and the training and development packages they include. We should not only focus on how we attract young talented people, but also how we retain them.
There is no quick and easy solution, but by opening the dialogue between the industry, young people and educators, we can start to turn the tide before the skills shortage worsens.
This article was first posted on Construction Matters on 2 May 2017