Open Doors is back for 2024 and new Build UK chair Julie White explains how everyone in the industry can play a part in recruiting the next generation

Having grown up visiting construction sites with my father, I find it easy to forget that what goes on behind the site hoardings is a bit of a mystery for most people.

Julie White

Julie White is the new chair of Build UK

Those of us who live and breathe construction know that what we do is fascinating, involving teams of talented people employing the latest technology to overcome a wide variety of challenges. But most people, especially young people who are still finding their way in the world, have absolutely no idea. 

In fact, research from YouGov shows that just 3% of 18 to 24-year-olds are looking at construction as a potential profession. Yet the industry’s need for new workers keeps on growing.

Open Doors provides a unique opportunity for young people and those looking for a change of career to visit our sites and other facilities to see first-hand what the industry has to offer

More experienced construction workers are retiring each year and there are new roles emerging that require different skills to those our workforce currently has – I see this in my own business. As a result, the CITB estimates that we need to recruit 45,000 new entrants every year.

I am committed to attracting more young people into construction and making sure there are clear routes of entry for them into the industry. That is why I am so passionate about Open Doors. It provides a unique opportunity for young people and those looking for a change of career to visit our sites and other facilities to see first-hand what the industry has to offer.

Delivered by Build UK with participation from organisations across the sector, Open Doors is a great way of:

  • Showcasing the sector – giving visitors a behind-the-scenes look at the many workplaces in construction and the technology used to create buildings and infrastructure that improve our lives.
  • Inspiring careers – enabling people to see how they might fit into the sector and sparking their curiosity, with 87% of participants in 2023 saying they were more likely to consider a career in construction after their visit.
  • Providing the first step – highlighting the various routes of entry into construction with something to suit everyone, whether their skills and interests are in IT, design, technology, law, marketing, sales, or the many specialist trades that make up the industry.

One of the real strengths of Open Doors is the variety of projects on offer, from major infrastructure to high-rise buildings, historic restorations to community hospitals and schools. And it is not just for sites either.

Some of our most successful Open Doors events have included manufacturing facilities, offices and training centres where visitors can meet the experts and see demonstrations of the latest construction techniques.

The next Open Doors week will take place from Monday, 18 to Saturday, 23 March 2024 and you can register your events on the Open Doors website now. Build UK members can host events free of charge, and there is an early-bird discount available for non-members until 30 November.

I am delighted that Build UK Trade Association member, the Drilling and Sawing Association, which my business is a member of and I also chair, will be opening its Nottingham headquarters to showcase our apprentice training in action and how we use technology in our specialist trade. I would encourage other trade associations to get involved in any way they can and show off the amazing work that we all do.

Schools and colleges have told us that they need plenty of time to organise visits, so don’t leave it until the last minute to register your events. Thanks to the work of our Open Doors partners, we are already receiving enquiries about pre-bookings for educational groups before booking opens to general visitors in January.

Nearly 5,000 potential recruits took the first step on their journey from education to employment in the industry by taking part in Open Doors events in 2023. With your help we can inspire even more to do so in 2024!

Julie White is chair of Build UK. Open Doors is delivered by Build UK in partnership with the CITB and CSCS. It is supported by The Careers and Enterprise Company, Department for Work and Pensions, and Skills Development Scotland and industry partners Canary Wharf Group, Considerate Constructors Scheme, Go Construct, Kier, People’s Partnership, Sunbelt Rentals, and Willmott Dixon. Building Magazine is the media partner.