James Wates says issues like blacklisting are threatening the industry’s reputation and can turn young people away from construction

James Wates

We all know the significance of the UK construction sector: it’s a huge contributor to the UK economy; it returns big on investment; its contribution is lasting and vital: homes, schools, hospitals, factories, roads, offices, the list goes on; and it offers a range of careers from the site to the boardroom.

But many people are still unsure about whether this fantastic sector is for them. Check out any careers survey and you’ll struggle to find much appetite for any role in construction.

The provision to train exists, so too does the will to get it done; and the need is certainly present: not just for the young but for those facing retraining mid-career. So what’s the blocker?

It isn’t hard to find. It’s just that too often it gets ignored: Reputation.

We have to work relentlessly to improve and protect the reputation of our sector- not only with customers but also with our pipeline of future talent.

The first element of this is to tackle areas that threaten our reputation; we’ve come a long way on safety and we should keep going. The same goes with other issues on which we need to demonstrate progress: blacklisting is a notable recent example.

The second element is to be on the front foot; to make sure that people make the connection between the fantastic outcomes we deliver and this sector called ‘construction’.

Who built the Shard? Or the UK’s new schools? Or the new St Pancras? Not a lawyer or an accountant- that’s for sure.

James Wates is chairman of Wates, the CITB and UKCG