Construction a force for good – recruiting the next generation

In November last year I was pleased to be given the opportunity to represent Constructing Excellence at an event hosted by the Westminster Sustainable Business Forum at Portcullis house.

The seminar was a follow up exploring progress since the publication of ‘Building Better’ by the WSBF in January 2015 and concentrated on the importance of skills, education, and recruitment to the future of our industry.

The speakers included representatives from UCL, BRE the ICE as well as a couple of government officials including Dr David Hancock of the cabinet office. Each speaker covered a range of issues close to our hearts and reminded us of the fantastic opportunity our industry has but also the danger we have of missing this opportunity. A write up summarising the event can be found here.

We heard of the potential for technology to be a revolution for our industry changing the required skillset and becoming a catalyst for attracting new people into the industry, we heard of the amazing things that construction has provided from the days of Brunnel to today, I decided to be very specific with my talk and to concentrate on recruitment, to consider our image in this process and question why we don’t do more with one of our greatest selling points.

Construction can be a great catalyst for better things in an economy brining social, environmental and a raft of other sources of value to an economy over and above the initial capital investment. Construction can be and should be seen as a force for good.

Let the force be with you…..

As the sith lords (commonly known as cowboy builders) look to bring our industry under the spotlight for all the wrong reasons, the rest of us (we can call ourselves Jedis) should sit up be proud of what we do and remind everyone that Construction is a force for good.

Construction may not on the face of it be the most glamourous of arenas for superheroes and it may not grab the headlines, but, it is the glue that pulls everything together.

From HS2, Crossrail, New Nuclear down to local schools, hospitals and even your extension or new kitchen, construction affects you whether you notice it or not every day. It can be central to an improvement in your life or simply an enabler.

London 2012 wouldn’t have been the spectacle it was without our industry working together to build a breath-taking park filled with great buildings.

If you talk to many construction professionals about their best moment in construction it’s often around seeing the end user of their product/service and how proud they were of the positive impact they had had on their lives.

So why isn’t construction towards the top of the next generations wish list when it comes to their future aspirations?

We struggle to attract new people to our industry and the image or perception of our industry is often seen as one of if not the main reason for this lack of engagement with the younger generation.

But if they saw the good that the industry did, if they heard the great stories of the value created and the betterment to areas and peoples wellbeing that construction is part of wouldn’t they be more interested?

The attraction of a young child to pretend to be a fireman, doctor, nurse, policeman isn’t the glamour of the role, it is the perception of doing things for the wellbeing of others and the pride that fills you with. Why cant this list include construction workers?

As an industry we could and should do so much more to share our great stories, show the world what amazing things we do every day and show the next generation that this is the place to be.

Ben Pritchard is a consultant at Invennt and past co-Chair of G4C.