According to the 2011 Census, the highest proportion of workers in the construction industry are aged between 40-49, and recent surveys suggest that this has not changed. The average age of the construction worker in 2017 is also thought to be 49 years old, meaning that this industry has one of the highest average worker ages. At the other end of the scale, the youngest workers aged between 16-21 made up the smallest proportion of the industry, so as you can see, construction has a problem. We have a majority workforce that is due to retire in 10-15 years’ time, but not enough young workers coming up through the ranks to replace them. Add into this the ‘Brexit factor’, and the construction workforce has a problem on its hands.
How can we turn this around?
The CITB was set up to be responsible for training in the construction industry. Four million cards may have been issued, but only half a million apprentices have been trained through them since the board was set up in 1964. The introduction of the Apprenticeship Levy last year has not been welcomed with open arms, and it is reported that a combination of the red tape surrounding the scheme, and the limitations on funding have seen the scheme at breaking point. So, what is the solution? Many construction companies have excellent training programmes for people of all ages and all levels that have been operating for years with excellent results. One of these companies is Laing O’Rourke who offer a variety of training schemes for young people of all ages and all education levels with the career progression post-training that is vital to maintaining a young workforce. There are also charitable organisations like the Construction Youth Trust who give young people access to training, education and employment opportunities in the construction industry, and maybe it is supporting these types of schemes rather than just hitting large companies with what is considered little more than a tax, that will encourage the next raft of young construction workers into the industry.
What are our schools doing to help?
Well, this is the point really – how is construction as a career being promoted in schools? A new board of 38 industry professionals has been announced to set up the new construction T-levels in schools that are to be offered as an alternative to A-levels, and these offer a more technical, rather than academic education. There are three construction-related T-level courses being produced: design, surveying & planning, onsite construction, and building services engineering. With these courses being offered as an alternative to a more academic qualification in schools, there is hope that we will start to see an increase in the number of young people coming into the industry. There is a lot of pressure on schools to produce academic results in GCSE, A-Levels and entry into Universities, but not enough done to promote the benefits of being a plasterer or a roofer, for example. These are good, solid, stable jobs that have stood the test of time and have offered many people a good standard of living; in some cases, earning more than a doctor whilst working fewer hours. Every parent wants their child to be successful in their future careers, but this does not necessarily mean a higher education and a ‘white collar’ job at the end of it. If you ask many of the people in middle and senior management in construction today where they started, many of them will tell you as an apprentice electrician or even as a labourer. Learning on the job the old-fashioned way is not to be sniffed at, and maybe this is where we need to learn the lesson, from the good old days.
The Crannull hypothesis – "The more people we speak to for you, the more opportunities we can create. The more opportunities we create, the greater the chance there is in you signing new clients."
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