Students these days show an impressive amount of talent and focus, so how can we persuade them to join the construction industry?

Helen Gough

“For previous generations higher education was more akin to three years of state sponsored hedonism”. This quote was included in a recent press articles about the “New Young Puritans” and the change in student life. In my opinion it embodies the 2015 reality of massive fees, student loans, fierce competition and a very real push towards a successful career.

I have been nothing but impressed by the focus and ambitions of “Generation Y” and none more so than by a group of lower sixth students I met recently at a careers evening JLL hosted in its Warwick Street office. As host of the event, I was able to introduce property onto the traditional agenda of opportunities within science and technology, medicine, law and accountancy.

When we engage with this emerging talent we also need to understand that the value set for ‘Millennials’ is different

As we focus on universities and how they train talent ready for the job market, we cannot neglect the importance of developing a passion for property and construction in schools. At a recent speech to the past RICS building surveying chairs, Alex Charlesworth (current chair) was recalling how he joined the profession because of someone who spoke to him at school.

I have very fond memories of my own interest in property as a child from playing with Lego; and look with enormous envy at my nephew’s growing collection of Lego Architecture. Building the Sydney Opera House with 2989 pieces of Lego with him is this weekend’s challenge. Increasingly we need to take some personal responsibility to engage with children at the earliest part of their education to allow them to see the opportunities and the role that they can play in the built environment.

When we engage with this emerging talent we also need to understand that the value set for “Millennials” is different. We should expect them to want mobility across countries, organisations and roles, and should look to work and accommodate this where we can. They want to be coached, not managed so our staff engagement styles also need to change to accommodate this. Ultimately “Generation Y” will be motivated to stay with an employer if they are fulfilled in their job and have changing needs addressed. 

Helen Gough is head of JLL’s Buildings & Construction team