Construction industry must build a positive image
THE gauntlet thrown down by Trade and Industry Minister Patricia Hewitt to find new ways to improve job opportunities for women in construction can only be picked up by changing the perceptions towards the industry, according to recent research carried out by Tarmac.
The construction industry as a whole is facing a shortage of almost 370,000 workers and it is estimated that women form less than 1% of the industry. Tarmac’s research reveals that 70% of women would not consider working in the construction industry with over half (53%) citing a perceived lack of job security as the main reason for looking elsewhere. Over a third of women (37%) identified concerns over pay levels as the reason they would not look to construction for a career, while a similar amount (30%) said that the lack of prestige associated with the sector was their biggest concern.
Jeremy Hilliard, national contracting director at Tarmac, said: ‘The construction industry is heading towards a severe skills crisis unless we can improve the image of construction work. We’ve got a massive job on our hands to find 370,000 workers by 2007. Adding to this issue is succession planning – thousands of construction workers are reaching retirement and there are very few [younger] generations of construction workers coming through.’
The attitudes of young people are of most concern and reflect the increasing unpopularity of a career in construction. More than half (57%) of young people (16–24-year-olds) regard construction work as a low-value job. One in four young people (23%) regard a job in media and journalism as their dream job, others would prefer a career as a lawyer or accountant (19%) or even a job in IT (15%), but only 2% said they would opt for a job in construction.
However, news that examination board Edexcel has received approval to introduce a new GCSE in construction has been welcomed by Mr Hilliard. He said this was good news for the UK construction sector and represented a crucial step towards solving the skills shortage issue and altering the negative perceptions of the sector. ‘The lack of a formally recognized, high-profile qualification in construction has significantly contributed to the problem. There was clearly a need for such a qualification to be introduced,’ he said.