19th June Journal Column

Web-LogoBy Catriona Lingwood, Chief Executive of Constructing Excellence in the North East

I’m a real advocate for welcoming more women into our industry, and have discussed many times how important I think it is to increase the number of women in construction and related industries.

There is always talk (especially from me) about ways to boost these numbers, but there’s little attention focussed on how we retain these women.

It’s estimated that 22,000 qualified women have not returned to work in the engineering sector after a career or maternity break. This is a massive loss to the industry, and a loss we cannot afford to have when we are facing such a big skills gap. Losing women in the industry is not only a loss in terms of skill, but it cuts ties that women have within the local community, schools and with parents/influencers that can be vital further down the line.

National Women in Engineering Day, which takes place next Wednesday, highlights the opportunities available for women in engineering. The day takes place at a time when it has never been more important to address the engineering skills shortage.

According to latest research from the National Specialist Contractors Council, the number of specialist contractors struggling to recruit skilled labour is at its highest level in 14 years.

I spoke to one employer who has been looking to recruit someone for six months. There are plenty of people out of work looking for jobs, but none seem to have the adequate skills required for the available roles.

Encouraging women into engineering careers will increase diversity and inclusion as well as filling the substantial future job opportunities that have been predicted for our sector. We are expecting more jobs, so it’s important to ensure we have skilled employees to fill them, and it would be a bonus if some of them were women.

The Construction Industry Training Board (CITB) last year predicted around 180,000 new jobs will be needed nationally up to 2019, and at least 2,000 will be here in the North East.

Thankfully, the likes of Balfour Beatty and Carillion have already pledged their support saying that by 2016, 30 per cent of individuals on their apprenticeship and cadet programmes will be women and 40 per cent of undergraduate sponsorship opportunities will be offered to women.

It’s great to see some big industry organisations taking a well overdue stance on educating and recruiting. I’ve said many times that I felt we needed to up our game when it came to encouraging women into the industry, and it’s good to see some steps in the right direction.

Recruiting more women is only the first step, but it is important that talented women are nurtured and encouraged to stay – the retention of any skilled employee will result in more benefits for the company.