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What does the construction industry need to do to keep hold of its young talent?

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3rd May 2019

The ongoing housing crisis has had a big effect on young people in the UK, with 46% of 24-35-year olds in the UK currently paying private landlords for accommodation and many now facing the prospect of renting for life. Whilst our recent research into the future of homes focused on the wants and needs of the public when it comes to housing, these homes will be built by the young people currently working and studying in the sector and it’s therefore important to keep them happy and engaged.

In order to prevent those working in the sector from becoming disengaged or dissatisfied with the industry as many young people have with the housing market, we must regularly listen to and act upon feedback. Construction publication Building Magazine has made a start on this and recently conducted a survey of young people working and studying in the sector – and we’ve taken a look at the results for you.

The good news for the industry is that nine in 10 respondents to the Building Magazine survey said they were happy with their current job within construction, with the same proportion of those studying in construction confirming that they were enjoying their course. Despite this positivity, the results from some of the other questions suggest that there is still plenty of work for the industry to do if it is to keep hold of these young people and ensure we have enough workers to build the homes of the future.

Work-life balance

One of the things that the research flagged as a key issue for young people working in construction was pay and working hours and when asked what they would change about the industry, this was the most common concern. Many respondents cited the need for an improved work-life balance and with a growing number of people in the UK suffering from mental health issues, it’s time to consider the impact working in the sector is having on young workers. There’s no denying that working in construction can be difficult. For tradespeople, the hours are long, and work is often challenging and in less than optimum conditions. It’s therefore vital that the industry works together to offer as much support as possible to young people to help them manage and deal with the stress of working in the sector.

We take mental health very seriously at Eurocell and in a previous article, we actually gave some tips for tradespeople for coping with mental health issues, which included the importance of talking to friends and family, seeking medical help and taking time out. In a separate blog, we also provided advice for managers in the construction sector looking to support staff towards better mental health; this included encouraging open conversation on the topic, paying attention to staff and allowing mental health days off.

Gender diversity

Alongside work-life balance, another concern for young people working in construction is the lack of gender diversity. It’s no secret that historically the construction sector has attracted predominantly male employees and tradeswomen make up just 1.18 per cent of the workforce and account for only 2 per cent of all apprenticeships. This issue was highlighted by respondents, with over half disagreeing that the sector offers as many opportunities for women as men. On top of this, only 23 per cent of female respondents said that construction was suggested to them by careers advisers, compared to just under half of male respondents. In response to this, the sector should be taking more steps to engage with schools and colleges to promote careers in construction, ensuring that young people are made aware of the large number of careers that exist in the sector. Our head of product design and development, Ian Kernaghan, is a member of the BPF Windows Group and is on the British Plastics Federation list for training to become a PVC Ambassador which means he will visit schools to promote the work Eurocell does and also provide an education on plastic as a building product, while further encouraging young people to enter the industry.

Technology and sustainability

The survey results also highlighted the need for the industry to move forward in terms of technology and sustainability. The young workers were concerned with the industry’s reputation for being ‘backward-looking’ and 38% of respondents disagreed that it is respected by the public, with many putting this down to the industry being behind digitally and not having strict enough sustainability laws. Interestingly, our own research which you can download here, highlighted technology and sustainability as key requirements of young people when it comes to the homes of the future. Whilst the rapid rate of change in technology means those working within construction are reluctant to adopt it for fear it will be soon be outdated, using more environmentally friendly building products and committing to recycling will help the industry to move forward and become more sustainable.

Act now to secure the future of construction

Whilst it’s positive that so many young people are happy in their jobs in the industry, with the much talked about skills shortage, it’s now vital that the construction sector acts upon the worries and concerns identified by the respondents if it is to help them grow into the stars of construction in the future.