The construction industry is struggling. Finding young people with the drive and the skills needed to work in the sector is becoming increasingly difficult. With 22% of the current workforce over the age of 50, the industry seems set for a further decline in workforce numbers.
- The construction industry is facing a skills shortage and not enough young people are taking up careers in the sector.
- Why are millennials turning their backs on jobs in construction and what needs to be done to spin their opinions back around?
- Fifteen year old guest blogger and Year 10 work experience student, Jacques Prior-Chadfield, shares his views on why he and his peers haven’t previously considered a career in construction. He also says the industry needs to do more to sell itself while girls and
boys are still in school.
Construction is a major employer, involving around 2.9 million people in the UK alone. It is also in many ways vital both to the economy and to individuals. You may think the industry would be flourishing: There is always a high demand for construction workers, and with new homes being built across the UK to try and solve the housing crisis, this demand is greater than ever before. However, meeting this demand is proving impossible: much of the workforce is nearing retirement, and younger people are simply no longer being enticed.
Over recent years, stereotypes surrounding construction have grown and, among my peers, the idea that construction is solely a profession for the unskilled and unintelligent is a popular one. More often than not, young people overlook the fact that careers in the construction sector are incredibly diverse. Even though jobs within the industry include everything from architects & virtual construction managers to MEP engineers and contractors (and all that’s in between!), friends I’ve talked to regard it as a much less ‘glamorous’ line of work than many so-called white-collar professions. I don’t think this is true. Most jobs in the industry require a great deal of skill and some do not even involve setting foot on site. On top of this, construction is a way of changing the world around you. For example, the redevelopment of slums across third world countries coupled with the construction of affordable housing has changed resident’s lives drastically, giving people access to modern comforts such as electricity and clean running water.
It is imperative to begin to encourage young people into careers in the construction industry; that much is obvious. Although this may appear a mammoth task to many companies, it is possible to do. Increasingly, other industries are finding place in their ranks for starting roles aimed at younger people. As many of these roles can lead to high pay and an interesting future career, they are not only enjoyable but snapped up fast, leading to considerable growth within both individual companies and the sector as a whole. This is an idea that could easily be adapted to fit better with the construction industry.
Another viable option for drawing in younger minds is setting up further apprenticeships, internships and work experience placements. By doing this, you are educating people at a young age on the importance of the construction industry, its many merits and why the sector offers a wealth of viable future career prospects. What must also not be overlooked, is the need to let young people know how many different types of work are available in construction. there is no way everyone is going to be interested in brick laying but someone who has no interest in plumbing may be fascinated by electrics. Any starter careers, taster sessions or starter schemes in place must stress the broad range of rewarding careers within the industry as a whole and within individual companies.
One thing that is often overlooked are the creative options a career in construction offers. Typically, people’s perceptions and media portrayal lead to the assumption that the sector is only about builders and maybe the occasional plumber. However, to an architect or MEP designer, creative thinking is essential. Facts about the creative side of the industry need to be highlighted in order to draw a wide variety of people into careers in construction.
In all honesty, it is only recently that I have learnt about the diversity of job roles in the construction industry. With hindsight, I feel it’s easy to overlook the links between professions such as architecture and the stereotypical depiction of those working in the industry both drawn in people’s minds and in the media. I personally believe this to be the main reason why construction is seen as an unappealing career path to lots of young people. Another factor that I think heavily contributes is, as I’ve mentioned, that people don’t seem to sell the creative side of construction when it comes to talking about possible future careers. As a creative person myself, it came as a surprise to me that job options within the sector are so diverse, interesting, and actually appealing.
I am not sure I will ever be able to fully decipher why young people’s views of the industry are so negative but I would like to see people working in the industry doing more to make sure students learn more about what prospects it offers while they’re in school. Writing this piece has proved an eye-opener. Researching it has explained the real need for younger workers in the construction industry. It has also opened my eyes to a wide range of options within what I admit previously believed to be a pretty dull, uncreative sector limited to just a few jobs that, although essential, were not worth even considering a career in.
To be honest, I also believe that the lack of younger people looking for careers in construction is due to stereotypes in popular culture that are so engrained they are automatically seen as true. Let’s put it like this: Things such as MoneySupermarket’s ‘Builders vs Strutters’ advertising campaign do not help inspire young people to join this diverse, creative, and thoroughly interesting sector that provides an opportunity to change people’s lives for the better and make a real difference to the world!
What young people really need to see more of are the many positive aspects of construction. This means educating people on the importance of the industry and the wide range of career prospects it offers. I think industry needs to think about partnering with schools and colleges so children and young people can hear – first hand – how rewarding and creative working in the sector can be. I’d also like to see more graduate and non-graduate schemes offered by the industry that allow people to get a taste of all the types of work a career in construction offers.
If this doesn’t happen, I think young people will remain close-minded to the opportunities available and the construction industry skills shortage will only get bigger.
Article courtesy of Trimble