Peter Commins Kier

COMMENT | Construction is more than male, muddy and manual

Comments (9)

The UK construction industry is in desperate need of thousands more recruits each year and Liverpool is no different, writes Peter Commins, managing director of Kier North West.

According to a report by the Construction Industry Training Board, the North West is projected to see average annual growth of 2% in total construction output between 2018 and 2022, outpacing the UK rate of 1.3%. Over the next five years, construction employment in the North West is predicted to rise by an average 1.9% each year, a higher rate than the national average of 0.5%.

Last year, we surveyed 2,000 parents, teachers and careers advisors to understand their thoughts on careers in the built environment. It made for very interesting reading, with the most common misconceptions being that people thought the sector is largely “male”, “muddy” and “manual”.

It also showed that two-thirds of teachers and careers advisors held negative views of the industry as a route for students and 73% of surveyed parents said they wouldn’t want their child to consider a career in the sector.

The Considerate Constructors Scheme recently surveyed industry professionals to understand the skills shortage. This found 85% of people working in the industry would recommend construction careers to young people, and 69% acknowledged the industry isn’t doing enough to attract the next generation of workers.

This shows the perception of people working in construction compared to the reality is worlds apart and there is a long way to go for people in the industry to promote it to the next generation. The sector is diverse and offers a number of job roles; from civil engineering to communications and project management career paths. There are a variety of entry routes and each position has huge opportunities for career progression.

Encouraging the next generation to consider our industry is something we’re passionate about at Kier. That’s why we launched Shaping Your World™, an initiative to inspire 11-15 year olds to consider a career in the built environment. We pledged 1% of our workforce, which equates to 200 employees, to act as Kier Career Ambassadors, and in the past year 365 Kier employees have signed up. Using technology such as avatars and AR to engage the younger generation has also been important.

I started in construction as an engineers’ assistant and this foundation gave me the platform I needed for a successful career. As a sector, we need to come together to engage with young people and encourage them to consider a career in construction. Let’s share the pride we have in our roles to show how they can build a flourishing and rewarding career.

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Construction needs to raise its profile from within…

By Tony M

Exactly Tony..
We need to look after the workforce we have who in turn will be our greatest ambassadors..

By Paul C

But Paul, there lies the problem.
We don’t look after them !!

By Mark

Sadly Mark I have to agree with you.
I have worked in construction all my life and have endured years of bullying by main contractors.

By Trevor

Bullying is rife… Unrealistic programmes… and slashed final accounts…
Is it any reason Construction has the highest suicide rate amongst the professions… !!

By Stephen A

Actions speak much louder than words …
If main contractors treated their sub-contractors with respect and a level of civility then that would go a long way to changing the perception of careers in construction. Sub-contractors are vital to the construction Industry put are all too often abused by the big contractors… Carillion being a prime example !

By Anthony

Anthony I could not agree with you more…
It is for those reasons that people are leaving the Industry. There is a demographic time bomb looming … an ever diminishing ageing workforce!

By Terry

Terry you are absolutely spot on !!
Construction is its own worst enemy ..
It treats people badly then wonders why on earth there is a skill shortage? I have told my own Son to keep well away from construction as a career choice…


There are exceptions, but on so many building projects its all driven by the bottom line cost, and increasingly unrealistic timescales, exacerbated by this ridiculous north-south divide the UK has when it comes to funding construction projects. Also, there is not enough emphasis on skills, craftsmanship and quality, or aftercare-particularly in the delivery of external space around buildings.

By Adam Ash