Attracting New Talent is essential
The UK government announced, in the 2017 Budget, its ambition to build at least 300,000 homes a year in England alone, along with major infrastructure projects in highways and rail. This is a lofty ambition with huge long-term impacts, but the question troubling many in the construction sector is, who exactly is going to do this?
The skills crisis in the construction sector has been an ongoing issue for a number of years in various guises. We know that due to demographic changes the UK’s labour force, in construction, tends to be older, with not as many younger people starting their careers in the sector. This means that there are not enough new entrants to match the numbers that may be leaving due to retirement.
Research by the Federation of Master Builders estimates that 230,000 skilled builders will be required to keep up with future demand.
Recent ONS figures also show that while some specialist disciplines have begun to widen the talent pool overall, we have not seen huge movements in the levels of diversity in the sector for the last 20 years. The lack of movement in the diversity of the industry contributes to the skills gaps but it also hampers efforts to innovate and prepare for the future - I believe that diversity is the disruption that the construction industry needs.
What can we do?
With an ageing working population, the potential impact of the reduced movement of talent and failure to engage with a wider talent pool is very concerning, so it is vitally important that construction companies find new ways of working in order to create and maintain skills capacity; both with young people and with adults.
More often than not when speaking about the future skills needs and diversity engagement, schools are hailed as a potential area for action, and while I agree it is important that we engage with children at as early a stage as possible (key stage 2, ages 8 -11), it’s incredible how often children aged 6 or 7 already have quite strong views about work and what would be feasible or accessible options for them.
Another target area is key stages 3 (12- 14) and 4 (15-16). Yes, it’s obvious, you may be thinking, but engagement between construction companies and schools can prove challenging for everyone involved.
One area that offers a potential quick win is offering work experience for year 10s (students aged 14-15). While year 10 work experience is no longer compulsory, many schools, parents and businesses are keen for students to gain real-life experience in the workplace, before making key career decisions.
Schools that lack the resources to source work placements are asking parents to take responsibility for finding opportunities. While this is not a bad idea in itself, it does further entrench employment segregation as parents have to rely on their own networks to source opportunities.
The challenge is not just about legislation or schools, however. There are some employer misconceptions about insurance and health and safety along with concerns about whether students are engaged enough to get something from the experience, and what exactly they could do with a young person.
3 things we can do now to get more school children into construction-related work experience
Make it easier for parents - opportunities for students are only as wide as their parents or carers’ networks. Construction companies can help by advertising opportunities for work experience from one day to two weeks on their websites. They can also let the various organisations, schools, colleges, and youth charities, and third sector organisations like Built By Us know that they are willing to support students’ career development.
Be realistic - some employers are concerned that if the student hasn’t expressed a strong enough interest in the industry or a specific discipline that it will be a waste of everyone’s time; this is not necessarily true. I don’t know about you, but when I was 14 I wasn’t completely clear on what I wanted to do, and with the way that work is constantly changing it is possible that many of the jobs that exist now, will not be around by the time year 10 students are following their career choice.
If you are unsure seek guidance on legal and other implications. Organisations such as the Health and Safety Executive and central Government have produced good guidelines outlining what an employer needs to think about in terms of insurance. There are also great resources available around planning activities for the students and preparing your staff to support them.
The Skills Crisis will not be solved by apprenticeships alone, particularly when it comes to young people. They need to experience and understand the opportunities available to them in this amazing sector. Everyone can and should play a part in boosting work experience opportunities in construction.
#construction #skillsgap #careersinconstruction #diversity #engineering #careersinengineering #workexperience #year10 #skills #skillscrisis