11/05/2018 – Working Towards Changing the Public Perception of the Industry

By Catriona Lingwood, Chief Executive of Constructing Excellence in the North East

For years we’ve struggled to change the public perception of the industry. We’ve come a long way in terms of technology and skills, and people just aren’t aware of the reality of the construction industry today.

We still have an image problem in that, particularly young people, think that construction is just a manual labour role involving bricklaying, woodworking and plastering. I’ve said it time and time again, but we’re more than just hard hats and muddy boots. The industry is one of the most innovative industries employing some of the smartest people I know. Construction is about changing and shaping the world around you for the better – what’s more creative and powerful than that?

The problem we have is that young people see other industries as more fun and innovative and that’s probably down to social media showing insight into offices and articles you often see online for the ‘world’s coolest office’. But what they usually forget is that it was the creative minds of our industry who designed and built them in the first place. The cool and usual designs, whether that’s the Google offices with slides and their funky relaxed working environments or the Money.co.uk office with meeting rooms modelled on ice caves, ski lodges and libraries, wouldn’t have been possible without our industry.

It is crucial for us to also change the stereotype that construction is a career choice for only white men. We are building communities for everyone to live in, therefore we need people from all walks of life to be involved with the planning, design and building to ensure they meet everyone’s needs. We’ve come on leaps and bounds with understanding the positive benefits of a diverse workforce and there are multiple initiatives and schemes to support further improvement.

We are continually working hard to change perceptions and present an accurate reflection of the construction industry. To do this, we must work with the public to make construction accessible, helping people to see what the industry is all about. Educating the people who influence young people’s career decisions is essential; the parents, teachers and careers advisers need to better understand what the industry can offer in terms of job roles and careers for the future. This means spending time with schools to show the opportunities available and get them as excited about technology and design as we are.

Our Generation4Change (G4C) group is made up of young people, up to the age of 35, employed in the industry who actively work in schools, with teachers and careers professionals to help promote careers in construction. The commitment and passion for construction demonstrated by these individuals is incredible and I can assure you, if anyone can change the public perception of the industry, it’s them.

For more information on Constructing Excellence in the North East, please contact chief executive, Catriona Lingwood, on 0191 500 7880 or email catriona@cene.org.uk.