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This city, the country, need more houses

Friday, September 26, 2014

The following was published in the Sheffield Star

No one seriously argues about this, but the construction industry faces serious problems which mean we may not get them. One in five construction workers are approaching retirement, and at the moment the industry has not got an attractive enough image to attract the young dirty, heavy work with few prospects. But this is far from the truth. There’s a wide range of roles in the industry, many of them highly skilled and well paid, with most of the heavy work being done by machines.

The industry needs around 182,000 new skilled workers by 2018, a lot of people to be recruited and trained for well-paid regular work. The growing demand for people provides an opportunity to broaden the workforce, to recruit more women as well as more men. At the moment only 11% of the overall workforce are female, with as little as 1% in the manual trades.

In Sheffield, Henry Boot construction have recognised this pressure and are visiting schools to encourage more young people to consider worthwhile careers in construction. They have also taken the positive decision to encourage more women to come and join the workforce. Around 18% of their employees currently are female, and the company is committed to increasing this.

Like many male dominated areas of the economy construction can be difficult for women, having to overcome sexism and lack of respect on site. The Construction Industry Training Board (CITB) are encouraging employees and employers to change by promoting the "Be Fair" Framework which tackles the issues of unfair practices and inequalities within the industry.

Alongside changing this outdated culture, the industry is starting to recognise the importance of greater flexibility in work practices which would allow those with caring responsibilities, or disabilities, to continue to work. Some construction jobs require a permanent presence on building sites, others an ‘as and when’ presence. Those companies who change their working practises are more able to hold on to scarce skilled and experienced staff.

Many women currently working in the sector talk of the pride they feel being involved in a construction project, whether a bridge, new shopping centre or one of the buildings springing up in the city centre. Promoting the best in construction, showing the pride from those who built them, maybe that’s the best way of encouraging the young to see this industry as an opportunity.


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