The industry needs to become a sector of choice for young people

Mark Clare

Central to the Construction Leadership Council’s future vision of the house building industry is the ability to attract and retain a diverse group of multi-talented people. In short we have to become a sector of choice for young people.

It’s a bold objective and one that today we are a long way from fulfilling. The industry’s workforce is ageing and not being adequately refreshed. Our reputation is not as high as our performance warrants. It is a worrying fact but one that we must face - only 1% of 16-18 year olds want a career in our industry. That compares poorly with other sectors which have a good deal less to offer.

We have to re-engage with the people who left the sector - up to 350,000 - during the downturn

Perhaps there is an inevitability about that given the havoc wreaked by the recession although I think it goes deeper. Now the recovery is starting, we have to address the problem by creating a much more exciting and compelling prospect for future employees.

We have to improve the reputation of the industry as an employer talking passionately to young people about the opportunities in the sector. We must engage in a long-term and sustainable way from 14 onwards in schools and colleges.

We have to re-engage with the people who left the sector - up to 350,000 - during the downturn. Yes, retraining may be required and we need to tackle that.

We have to identify, attract and develop future talent. Barratt is already expanding our apprentice and graduate programme to over 600 over the next few years but the industry acting together will need to do substantially more.

We have to expand ‘in house’ academies now run by a number of companies to cover site managers, sales, technical and commercial roles. We have recently taken 1,000 of our staff through our new sales academy but the solution is not a ‘one off’ training initiative. We will need to go deeper and introduce far more initiatives such as the Residential Construction degree course we have founded with Sheffield Hallam University.

And we have to address the skills challenge of sustainable construction, embedding new knowledge and ways of working within our workforce.

This is a formidable and daunting challenge. It can’t be done by one or two companies acting alone - we have to engage and coordinate our approach to excite young people. We must act more cohesively than in the past to create a compelling vision and a series of practical initiatives that brings that vision to life.

This is an exciting industry to be part of; we have to convince others of what we already know.

Mark Clare is group chief executive of Barratt Developments