Wates Construction, the contractor currently delivering HOME, the new £25m art complex at First Street in Manchester, is calling for a greater emphasis on encouraging women into construction and opening up opportunities for female talent.
The call to action comes after Wates hosted the first in a series of events for the Association of Women in Property on site at First Street, forming part of the contractor's commitment to celebrating leading females in the industry.
Attended by representatives from the North West's development and property companies, the event included a site tour of the new cultural facility and included a debate on the value of Building Information Modelling in building projects.
The event formed part of Wates' wider regional programme to tackle female under-representation in construction and ensure that women play a central role in addressing the industry's looming skills gap.
This commitment has also seen the contractor form a three-year industry-education partnership with all-girls school, St John Bosco Arts College in Liverpool, through which it pioneers its industry's training and career opportunities.
Tony Shenton, business unit director at Wates Construction North West, said: "In February this year the Office for National Statistics announced that female presence in the construction industry had risen by 14% since last year. However, the gender balance of our industry is about much more than statistics. As the economy's recovery picks up pace we are inevitably faced with a shortage of resource and women are undoubtedly the key to addressing this.
"Wates is a huge champion of seeking out the most promising talent available to our industry, be it male or female, and the recent Women in Property event at First Street was a great arena in which to celebrate some of the region's leading female property professionals. This is however, a grass roots issue and we must educate young people on the diverse opportunities available in our industry to ensure that we are ahead of ourselves in addressing the skills gap and more importantly that we encourage talented females to consider a career in construction."
Lucy Worrall, chairman of the North West branch of Women in Property, said: "As an organisation, we try to instil gender diversity at every stage of one's career. In fact, we start long before the first salary slip arrives, by going into secondary schools, reaching girls at an early age to explain to them what they might be missing. If girls don't know what careers are available in our industry, how will they ever find their way into it? We are delighted and encouraged that Wates adopt such a positive and inspirational approach to the issue of under-representation."
Fran Toms, strategic lead for cultural development at Manchester City Council, who spoke at the recent Women in Property event, added: "As someone who has had the opportunity to work on several Cultural construction projects in Manchester, going back to the Bridgewater Hall, I am always keen to see more women on our projects.
"The role of client project manager offers a diverse range of skills development such as stakeholder engagement, business planning, procurement risk assessment and fundraising as well as project management itself. We had an engaging and informed group to take around the site and it was a pleasure to share my experiences and promote HOME."
Wates began construction of HOME last year on behalf of project partnership, Manchester City Council and Ask Property Developments. Once complete, the new cultural centre will comprise a 500-seat theatre, another 150-seat theatre, gallery, five cinema screens, a café bar and restaurant.
The Wates Group recently became one of the first companies in the UK to be awarded the Construction Industry Training Board's Be Fair accreditation, an accolade reserved for organisations that demonstrate commitment to fairness, inclusion and respect in the workplace.
Lucy O'Connor, joined Wates in 2008 and has worked her way up the ranks in business development, including roles in managing the UK-wide PR and communications. Now business development advisor in the North West, O'Connor supports the growth of the business.
She said: "The construction industry has progressed considerably over the course of the past few years and more and more women are recognising the opportunities available to them in construction. Nevertheless, it is our responsibility to ensure that young females choosing their vocational paths don't discount the variety of career choices that this sector offers."