13th May Journal Column

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

I’ve always been a supporter of encouraging young people into the construction industry and I thought we’d finally got to a place where people realised the importance our young people have in the future of our industry. However, results of the latest YouGov poll found that two-thirds of the public would not consider a career in construction, with only 17 per cent saying they would consider it.

At a time when the industry is falling short of talent, and we have a gap of 100,000 workers with around 250,000 existing workers that need retaining over the next five years, it seems we have our work cut out to change the public’s perception of the industry.

Major infrastructure projects planned for this year are threatened by the skills shortage, meaning vital works on roads, rail and energy is likely to be affected – so something needs to be done.

The survey, carried out on behalf of the Construction United group, also found that more than half of the public used words such as ‘strenuous’ or ‘dirty’ to describe work carried out in the construction industry, with only a disappointing 11 per cent describing it as ‘exciting’. Having worked in the industry for several years now, I can say first hand that the industry can be very exciting!

Most people who work in construction actually love it, we’re just not very good at expressing that message and the government aren’t doing enough to promote that it’s not all dirty work!

The image people have in their head is not a true representation of how the industry is today. We’ve come a long way in terms of technology and skills, and the generic public just aren’t aware of the reality of construction today.

It was disappointing to see that the industry isn’t seen in a particularly academic light, with 41 per cent thinking it is one of the least likely sectors to require higher or further education. The industry now has the skills and resources to train and educate, and those who have gone through apprenticeships are some of the smartest people I know.

I am 100 per cent behind supporting new recruits, particularly students and young people. I believe that the youth of today hold the future of our industry in their hands, so why wouldn’t we encourage them into the industry by showing them just how amazing construction can be?

If we give them a true representation of what they can expect, and what the industry is like, then we’ve done all we can and it’s down to them to decide if construction is right for them.

The government should be doing more with regards to promotion of the industry to inform parents/school career advisors and pupils that there are many professions within the construction industry, it’s not just hard hats and muddy boots.