Robert Smith of recruitment consultant Hays Montrose asks how the construction industry should attract graduates.
If you’re having problems recruiting graduates, you’re not alone. Industry professionals and recruitment consultants have plenty of advice on how firms should be luring graduates through the doors, but all prefer to remain anonymous…

Target the schools

Senior manager, recruitment consultant: “What’s the point of targeting universities? That’s far too late. We should be targeting schools and 15-year-olds. The old apprenticeships and in-house training schemes that fell by the wayside need to be re-implemented. People in the industry seem genuinely amazed when I offer this opinion, but I think it is fairly elementary. That worries me.”

Offer a competitive salary

Development manager, Construction Industry Council: “Graduate recruitment is a very patchy topic and as yet very poorly researched. The main stumbling block is that construction salaries simply do not compare with other industries’. There are one or two individuals within the industry who have well-structured policies and success in this area, but there’s no set policy across the board.”

Get your face known

Manager, recruitment consultant: “Everyone agrees that there is a big problem. But although people are willing to give the subject lip service, few of them have a structured recruitment policy to get graduates through the doors. They should be ensuring that they have a presence in colleges, and building up relationships with the people who run the courses. Put the effort in, do the legwork and get your face known. Every other industry is in schools and colleges, yet construction isn’t.”

Build local relationships

Firms need to get out and about at a local level, targeting young people before university

Recruitment consultant: “I spent a couple of days trying to find out what contractors in my area are doing. The answer is: not a great deal. There are no policies at a provincial level. I was told repeatedly that that side of things was dealt with at head office, by the human resources department. I’d say that relationships need to be built up on a local level. Also, many of my clients would like to take on a trainee but are put off by the red tape. Not only do they find that they have to pay a fee, but the rules and regulations are just too much hassle.”

Work together

Manager, national contractor: “You’ve got the building services engineers in one corner, you’ve got the surveyors in another, and so on. All these bodies are trying to achieve the same thing – making their industry sound attractive to young people. Why aren’t we working together? Surely we’d have more impact that way.”

Sponsor prizes – and give them beer!

Director, communications company: “We get our name around campuses by sponsoring prizes, sports teams, giving talks and bombarding students with promotional items such as mugs, Frisbees, beer mats even. We focus on our unique selling points and encourage graduates to talk to new employees who are enthusiastic about the company. Giving them a free bar helps, too!

So, the message is: get out and about at a local level, and target young people before university. Construction is an exciting, professional and booming industry and this needs to be communicated. Look at the catering industry – kitchen staff work long, hard hours for very bad pay but the popularity of cookery programmes and TV chefs is encouraging more young people to enter the industry than ever before. There is no reason why we can’t find role models to do the same for construction.

Firms need to work together. Contractors, consultants, architects and surveyors are all working towards the same goal, and advertising the various career options available would demonstrate just how much the industry has to offer young people.