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Getting young people into construction

Getting young people interested and involved with careers in construction is an age old (no pun intended) industry issue. It’s no secret that we in construction have an ageing workforce, and that demand is ever-increasing on construction professionals, with housing targets to meet and changing standards to accommodate.

With the recent impact of COVID-19, many have been left uncertain about their futures. Construction was one of the key industries that was able to keep operational throughout the crisis, with many sites maintaining business as usual. Though, of course, with social distancing measures in place.

Construction is skilled work, with a lot of potential for individual progress and development. Truly no two days are the same. Working on a project is a constant process of evolution, and there’s no feeling like seeing the finished product after months of planning and hard work.

Not to mention, there are so many different career options for prospective construction professionals. From site managers to plumbers, bricklayers to building operatives, the range of talent required to take a building from foundation to finish is vast.

Rob Pell, head of construction at Priestley Construction, is a dedicated member of the Chartered Institute of Building (CIOB). He offered his thoughts on why construction needs young people more than ever, and how we can tackle the issue.

“I have worked in the construction industry for more than 40 years, so it goes without saying I’ve seen countless challenges – from endless housing shortages, to the 2008 recession, Brexit and now COVID-19.

People are the key to meeting these challenges head on. The onus is on construction companies to put in the effort to attract talent, impart the necessary skills, and retain the people you’ve invested in.

I believe the UK’s construction apprenticeship schemes need to be radically overhauled to keep young people engaged. There’s currently a focus on fast-tracking young people through training to get them onto site as soon as possible.

This approach misses the point entirely. What we end up with is a raft of young people who are given base-level, on-site experience and don’t have a broader awareness of how the industry operates day-to-day.

Passing on our practical expertise is not enough – we need to show all trainees how sites operate, in terms of contracts and project management, for example. In short, new trainees need to be empowered to develop practical and commercial skills.

Overall, industry and government need to come together to develop major training programmes that offer young people the first rung of the ladder and show them the view from the top.”

To find out more about the job prospects we provide at Priestley Construction, visit our careers page.