With skills shortages threatening the sector how can we make sure that the best and brightest women are being encouraged to join the world of construction?
This month we celebrated International Women’s Day and the achievements of women in construction in the UK. However, this follows a recent publication from RICS that identifies skills shortages which are threatening jobs in the construction sector.
This is a growing concern for developers and construction companies alike and will inevitably stall our economic recovery. Certainly with plans for regeneration in the UK, and the development of affordable housing, it is of paramount importance that we attract young people into construction roles so that work can continue at pace. As all of us in this sector will know, any improvements in the economy must be taken advantage of so that we can improve our built environment and where possible address sub-standard living conditions.
To do that we need to attract candidates from a range of backgrounds and make sure the message we send out is relevant and applicable to both males and females. This does not mean just boosting percentages or preferential treatment. But it does mean taking a closer look at what is already happening with groups, such as the Girls Network which mentors school-age girls, and how we can continue the positive work after school and into apprenticeships, vocational placements and graduate training.
The recent viral letter from seven-year-old Charlotte Benjamin to Lego about the lack of Lego girls does illustrate the point: we are wasting valuable resources if we do not consider the important role women can have in construction
We also need to consider how we fare on the international scale and in comparison with other sectors that also wish to recruit talented individuals. The recent viral letter from seven-year-old Charlotte Benjamin to Lego about the lack of Lego girls does illustrate the point: we are wasting valuable resources if we do not consider the important role women can have in construction and how this can be encouraged.
By any means this will be long-term goal, as we all know that construction is a challenging industry which frequently faces criticism that it is male-orientated in its approach and culture.
That said, I know from my own practice that significant changes have been made with women now in senior positions across all manner of construction projects both in the UK and internationally. Also, from the work of groups such as the National Association of Women in Construction, it is clear we are making great strides in educating, supporting and mentoring professional women from a range of disciplines such as law, architecture, construction, engineering and surveying, and if this continues we will surely be able to foster a diverse and highly skilled workforce of the future.
In my view, if we are proactive and support these kinds of initiatives, we can be confident that we will help towards bridging the gap in skills shortages in the construction sector.
Stephanie Canham is national head of projects and construction at law firm Trowers & Hamlins