CN Inspiring Women in Construction

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Diversity is Opportunity

By Sarah Fenton, strategic partnership director at CITB

15 November 2019 – The challenges facing the construction industry will be familiar to regular readers of Construction News; these include an ageing workforce, a shortage of trained and skilled workers, and potential migration restrictions.

CITB estimates that 168,500 new workers need to be employed over the next five years to meet growing demand.

The challenges may seem daunting but tackling them presents a number of opportunities for the construction industry to initiate change within the sector. 

Before joining CITB - where I support the development of people to meet the skills needs of construction employers - I worked as a site agent in the utilities sector. I always enjoyed drawing and building creations in the workshop at school so, combined with the appeal of earning while learning, I was attracted to my first job that did just that in building surveying. 

When I started out in construction 30 years ago, I was the only woman in the workforce. While I personally never experienced any problems relating to my gender, research suggests a need for continuing development in this area. Just 16 per cent of the UK construction industry today is female but when it comes to working ‘on the tools’, the figure decreases to 2 per cent.

Encouraging more diversity throughout the workforce is vital, but how can it be implemented? 

We need to create a workforce which mirrors our society. We should strive towards a workforce where people looking in from the outside can feel comfortable because they relate to what they see.

Our annual Careers Information Advice and Guidance research highlights the perception challenge we face. It was this realisation that led to the creation of CITB’s careers campaign, which is designed to tackle the sector image problem through presenting a series of case histories or real life stories.

Attracting a diverse workforce will supply a range of fresh talent to the industry, bringing an understanding of various tools and technology to progress at the rate industry requires. The sector needs to be more competitive when it comes to attracting talent and being perceived as a career destination.

Our whole world and the way we operate are becoming more and more digitised and this has the potential to transform the construction industry in so many ways. When we talk about digitisation, people tend to think of digital products and construction processes, but there are further aspects that should be considered.

CITB recently announced its digital leadership scheme, which delivers six projects with the aim of training construction leaders in the skills they need to embed digital practices throughout their businesses. We identified the need for leaders to have the ‘know how’ to drive digital transformation through our report, Unlocking Construction’s Digital Future.

Setting out for Construction is one of the six projects involved with the scheme, covering Great Britain. Director Saffron Grant presented the project at this year’s Digital Construction Week and discussed the resources they provide to train business leaders in this field. These include online courses, coaching, seminars, written resources and diagnostic tools.

By equipping existing leaders, industry will be better placed to attract new talent through showcasing modern ways of working. The modernisation of construction has the potential to appeal to a wider pool of recruitment that may have previously overlooked construction as an option.

CITB research shows that the vast majority of recruitment is conducted through word of mouth and often stems from having a relative in the industry. However, if the industry began to adapt by widening its recruitment practices and placing digital upskilling at the forefront, there would be a lot to gain for construction. We need to uncover the best talent in the field.

For anyone who wants to break into the industry, or advance their career, but is struggling to see an opening, digitisation is an emerging area of great need. Acquiring more knowledge and skills in this area should be viewed as a great opportunity for anyone looking to progress within construction.

Visit the Career Explorer on Go Construct to find out more about the various types of roles and vacancies currently available in construction. 

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