Why schools aren’t promoting construction careers

April 10, 2017 / Isla MacFarlane
Why schools aren’t promoting construction careers

According to new research by Redrow, misperceptions of the range of careers available in the construction sector and what they entail is rife in schools.

This lack of knowledge and poor communication is a key contributor to the industry’s skills crisis which will only be exacerbated with Brexit potentially blocking workers from the EU.

The government needs to retool careers advice with more relevant and accurate information to help encourage people to consider a career in housebuilding. The recent announcement of T-Levels could be a step in the right direction, but more needs to be done.

Redrow’s report, which surveyed parents, schoolchildren and Redrow’s own apprentices, reveals:

  • 52% of young people have never given a career in construction ANY consideration
  • Boys more likely than girls to receive advice on construction careers AND apprenticeships
  • Only 17% of youngsters feel they receive high-quality, wide-ranging careers advice at school with 38% stating that advice was non-existent or not useful
  • 9% of parents would actively discourage their child from pursuing a career in construction

Young men were more likely to have been given advice on a career in construction, with 40% having received this, however just 29% of young women had received this advice in comparison. The result is that just 30% of young men questioned said a career in construction was a possibility for them and just 16% of young women.

This data begins to offer an explanation as to why just 11% of the construction sector comprises female employees.

“Whether you are a woman or a man, there is room for you within the construction industry,” said Tracey Jackson, marketing manager at Howells Patent Glazing said. “If you are a woman, then picking the job, and company for you will be your first hurdle, but your success will completely be down to your tenacity and dedication to pursuing and developing your skill set.

“There is a lot of support out there and we’re hoping to help women access the tools they need to ‘get ahead’ within construction. As a business, Howells Patent Glazing have always been a gender neutral business, and we’re hoping that by encouraging women to pursue a career in the industry, we can help to break some of the barriers that women feel are holding them back.”

Nearly a third (32%) of the young people stated that they hadn’t received information at school on apprenticeships. Again, more men (64%) than women (55%) had received advice on apprenticeships.

There is a particular failing in schools to recognise apprenticeships as an alternative viable route for young people. A report from educational think tank Sutton Trust found that 65% of teachers would not advise a pupil with predicted good grades enough to attend university to pursue an apprenticeship.

When Redrow asked its own apprentices how they received their careers advice, only 8% found out about the scheme through a training provider and only 4% through the National Apprenticeship Service. Just 5% said they were encouraged to enroll on an apprenticeship through career advice that they received at school.

Redrow’s survey of young people reveals that misinformation is rife today. More than half (55%) believe that “a career in construction mostly involves manual labour” – a view that fails to encapsulate the breadth and depth of the careers available. Nearly one in five (19%) of young people believe a career in construction does not require any qualifications beyond GCSEs.

The result is that more than 72% of parents have never discussed the prospect of a career in construction with their child. Nearly 1 in 10 (9%) parents however would actively discourage their child from undertaking a career in construction.

“The government needs to move fast in order to address this gaping skills gap,” said Jean Liggett, CEO of Properties of the World. “We need to learn from manufacturing powerhouses like Germany. The UK needs more colleges and apprentice programmes designed specifically to improve the skills shortage that the country faces, and create in-house training opportunities that allow individuals to work their way up, creating a skills development funnel for the future.

“Of course, what the skills gap does mean is that those who are considering a career in housebuilding have some excellent opportunities available to them. If the UK is lacking in skilled carpenters, it stands to reason that those carpenters who are available can command decent wages and an ample supply of work. The same goes for all other roles where demand outstrips supply. And with the UK in the midst of a sustained housing shortage, graduates or career changes who are looking for a long-term future would do well to look to the building industry for excellent job security prospects.”

A more targeted approach to recruitment is also needed. Show House will shortly be launching an online jobs site for housebuilders and suppliers, giving the industry its most relevant platform to recruit staff across the skill sets and disciplines.

As well as the latest jobs, the recruitment platform will inform and engage the next generation of industry talent, encouraging young people into housebuilding and highlighting the wealth of opportunities in the sector, be it for apprentices, school-leavers, graduates, or as a career change.


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