2018 is the Year of Engineering in the UK. There are numerous campaigns running this year that aim to promote diversity within the broader engineering sector, and which celebrate initiatives that support industry changes to demographical imbalances. Such campaigns aim to ensure construction industry work forces mirror the communities for whom they develop, construct and maintain societal infrastructure.
The benefits of a diverse and inclusive workforce are extensive, and the scale of skill shortages in the industry is a well-known, ongoing challenge. Sobering statistics such as those in a 2017 report from Arcadis indicate that the industry needs to recruit one construction worker every 77 seconds to meet 2021 project demand.
One of the fundamental problems with truly making changes is looking at how - and from where - the industry recruits. STEM and apprentice initiatives are being encouraged within the industry, but these initiatives are strong leadership solutions for a future generation.
The race and desire post-recession to rebuild capability, to second into clients ahead of competitors - to fill vacancies quickly in tight market conditions – have contributed to an industry tendency to search for individuals from within ever-decreasing talent pools. There is a risk that these recruitment practices could hold back the diversity agenda.
According to findings from the 2017 RICS All Party Parliamentary Group for Excellence in the Built Environment, ‘only 13% of chartered surveyors and 28% of trainees are women and across the whole of the construction sector, employing over 2.5 million people, women comprise just 11%.’ It is inevitable then that if we only consider individuals with construction-specific industry experience, it won’t be possible to make significant changes to that demographic in the short term.
If we are going to truly look at diversity, we need to look more broadly than just protected characteristics and look at diversity of culture, perception, skills, and experience. We need to look at potential, transferable skills, and the ability to adapt. As well as valuable career returner’s initiatives, we need to promote the benefits of the industry to other sectors as part of a career changer initiative.
If we are going to address short term skill shortages, we need to start to think bigger and broader. We need to consider where else we can find people who have the stakeholder skills, entrepreneurial ability, drive to deliver, to innovate and adapt. After all, technical ability can be trained, or directed by those who’ve already learned to think strategically, understand the needs of clients, lead and innovate in other industries. LEAN construction methodologies are a good example of where the industry has benefited by looking at how things are done elsewhere.
We’re currently talking to industry associations and leaders to understand how we can evolve the landscape. If you want to be part of the discussion contact firstname.lastname@example.org