Following the revelation that the average age of a construction worker is 49, the Director of a fast-growing home improvement firm and world-class inventor have reacted by saying that it is no longer sustainable to carry on without action being taken.
The average UK construction worker is 49 years old and male; and with a likely contraction in workers from the EU, following the Brexit vote, there is an increasingly smaller diminishing pool of workers for building firms to access.
Michele Wietscher, who is a founder and Director at Newview Windows and Conservatories – which has clients such as Network Rail and Heathrow Airport on its books – says that increasing diversity and promoting construction as an industry that is exciting and worthwhile at secondary school level is the answer.
But while the pool of talent is increasingly diverse, the proportion of women in the construction workforce has dropped from 19% to 13% and the black and minority ethnic proportion is just 3%.
In addition to this many young men are also seeking jobs in sectors such as IT and technology and not for jobs where they are working with their hands.
Michele comments: “The debate is finally happening about the next generation of construction workers but it’s now time for action. We’re facing a double crisis of an ageing population and a likely contraction of workers from the EU.
“Ironically, the labour shortage is also driving wages up, so construction jobs should be more desirable if only young people were encouraged to consider them.
“The long-term answer is to promote our industry as a viable option for young people and this means tackling it at school level and doing it now. Too many schools are judged on how many students enrol at college or university and this often means they don’t focus on sectors such as construction and create engagement between business and students.
Michele continues: “For example, the Construction Industry Training Board (CITB) revealed that more than half of 14 – 19-year olds think construction is outdoors and getting dirty but there are lots of different jobs in construction including cost estimator, construction manager, engineer and architect. This needs to be communicated if we are to get more young people and females working in this sector.”
Michele also says that changing the curriculum could also be an effective way of encouraging more children towards a career in construction.
But recent steps to remove design and engineering from the curriculum, still show there is a long way to go. Nick Grey, who is the inventor behind Gtech supports Michele’s views and recently told Business Leader Magazine about his frustrations with the current education system.
He comments: “It is essential that we encourage young people to take an interest in design and engineering. In my opinion, the British are the best designers in the world and one of the reasons for this, is that we always look to question things.
“I think taking design and technology off the curriculum in schools is madness. I’ve never heard madness like it before, it’s our biggest asset.”