20 June 2018
Everyone that works in the construction industry will tell you what a great industry it is. So why are we facing a national skills crisis and what can we do to address this?
Inspiring the next generation to consider a career in construction is key to this and ensuring we reach everyone – no matter of gender, ethnicity or disability – is crucial as everyone has a skill that can be applied. And this is where the Inspire Awards are playing their part.
The purpose of The Inspire Awards is to help inspire a more diverse and inclusive culture in the industry by celebrating those who are leading the way. No matter what our differences, no one should be excluded from achieving their potential. Against a backdrop of a national skills shortage, Brexit and an ageing workforce, it is now more important than ever to attract a more diverse workforce. And this shouldn’t stop with the industry’s people but extend to its practices and projects, stating the case for a truly inclusive built environment which caters for all. As such the awards recognise across three distinct areas – peoples, practices and projects.
I was privileged to be a judge at this year’s awards and I can confidently say it was an enthralling experience. Throughout the judging process, it has become clear that as an industry we are doing a good job in becoming an all-inclusive industry, as witnessed by the numerous entries. It also becomes clear that those working in the industry – including many at the start of their career as showcased in the Rising Star category – believe it is the single most exciting and important sector there is.
Research carried out by the Construction Industry Council (CIC) into working practices in the construction industry support this. For example, 83% of workers in the sector are proud of their jobs and over half – 55% – of those polled said they have an inspiring job to go to every day. So why do we still have a skills shortage?
Whilst the awards are a great way of recognising those organisations and individuals that are going that extra mile to promote true diversity, I believe the problem lies somewhere else. I believe that there is a lot of great work going on across the industry but that we are not shouting about it.
Communication does seem to be one area that the construction industry needs to improve upon. Those involved in the sector will all enthusiastically tell you how exciting, rewarding and diverse the sector can be but there is still a misconception that construction is 'old-fashioned'. And here lies the challenge - we have a skills shortage as we are unable to translate this and communicate it to the younger generation and encourage them to seek a career in the industry. Likewise, there is great work being doing to address diversity in our industry but we are not communicating these successes.
The Inspire Awards is a step in the right direction as it is encouraging people to shout about the work they are doing, however we have a long way to go. All too often diversity and inclusivity is a boardroom discussion but we need to see it cascade further down into organisations, through HR departments and into operational teams. I believe it is these teams who are the lifeblood of many organisations and it is through these groups that we can make massive steps forward.
Whilst we clearly need to focus on encouraging young people to choose a career in construction we shouldn’t forget the older generation. There are many older people that have exceptional skills gained in another sector that can be easily transferred to our sector. The experience, know-how and aptitude that this generation can bring will be essential if we are to address the skills shortage. CABE plays an active role in reaching out to both of these groups as we understand that everyone has something to add, regardless of their age.
We also need to ensure that diversity doesn’t become a tick box exercise. The end goal should be to reward people – no matter age, gender, ethnicity and physical attributes – for their application and how well they can do a job.
The Inspire awards have been inspiring. It shows what a great industry we work in and the great work that many organisations are doing to help bring a more diverse workforce into the sector. We still have a long way to go but it is good to see how far we have come.