According to research recently released by the Chartered Institute of Building, by 2021 the construction industry will need to have sourced 157,000 new recruits just to keep up with demand, writes Sally-Ann Smith of Seddon. That’s just three years away.
The scale of construction projects across the UK is immense – in Manchester, for example, there has been another invasion of cranes – but the scale of the problem the industry is facing is also immense and the skills shortage has become ‘mission critical’.
If ever there were a time to pick up the pace in mobilising the huge pool of potential talent represented by the female half of the population, it’s now and without attracting more women into construction, across all disciplines and in all areas of expertise, we won’t plug the skills gap. There’s a mountain to climb and we can’t underestimate the scale of the challenge – for example, out of 750 young people who applied to be a trainee at Seddon in 2018, only 10 were female.
Despite increased industry efforts to improve gender diversity in recent years, alongside an ever increasing spend on recruitment, it’s just not working. We are never going to solve this crisis if we don’t do something different.
So what can we do then to make real change happen, so that women will come to consider a career in the industry not only as a viable option, but one that can offer exciting opportunities that others lack?
At Seddon, we’re staging a multi-pronged attack on gender stereotypes, negative perceptions of the industry and barriers to progress.
We’re taking a strategic approach to developing an inclusive workplace built on kindness, empowerment and respect one that supports diversity and delivers a positive working culture for all regardless of background or personal circumstances. We’ve introduced a range of network groups in the company, responsible for driving our strategy forward and supporting a range of objectives including increased female representation at leadership level and increased numbers of women employed in construction based roles.
At a recruitment level, we’re working with our expert team to change our recruitment language and develop a stronger employee value proposition to attract women into both professional and trade careers in construction.
We’re also partnering with schools, colleges and universities to bring construction to life. We’re concerned with broadening horizons for young women especially, inspiring and empowering them at the same time as introducing construction as a rewarding career option. Reportedly 35% of teachers think that construction is an unattractive career for women, so our TEAM initiative is designed to address this. Aimed specifically for girls in Year 8, it’s an eight week programme that covers topics from female role models to personal brand, team-work and communication skills, helping participants to realise their potential, whilst showing them they can have a fulfilling career in any sector including construction – where a wealth of roles are available.
Nothing will change overnight but a concerted effort in 2019 will help push our industry that important step closer to achieving gender diversity and stemming the skills shortage. Those who take the lead will reap the rewards.
The North West in 2019 series features guest contributors looking ahead to next year and will be published throughout December. Interested in taking part? Email a synopsis to firstname.lastname@example.org