Sector seen as ‘overly physical’ and less lucrative than others

Nearly three in 10 people say they would be unlikely to recommend a career in construction to their children or other young people, according to a new survey by the Chartered Institute of Building (CIOB). 

The organisation says the figure (29.6%), which is higher than the proportion of people who said they likely would make such a recommendation (27.7%), demonstrates that the public’s “outdated” perception of the sector is leading it to be overlooked as a career option. 

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Source: CIOB

CIOB chief executive Caroline Gumble said the industry continued to be dogged by an ‘image problem’

An extra 224,900 people are needed in the industry by 2027 but according to the CIOB there are widespread misconceptions about pay levels in the sector and construction roles being “overly physical”. 

More than half of people (57%) perceived average annual earnings to be lower than the true figure, which was around £36,000 in 2022, compared with £33,000 across all other sectors. 

While average earnings across the economy rose 15% between 2012 and 2022, the increase for full-time construction jobs was 24%. 

CIOB chief Caroline Gumble said the sector continued to be dogged by had “an image problem” and that the report highlighted how construction was “taken for granted and overlooked at government level and by individuals who are exploring career options or changing their career path”.  

“There are big misconceptions around earning potential, job prospects and working conditions and this is something the sector needs to work together to address if we’re to bridge the existing worker shortfall that will over time become bigger if nothing is done,” she said.  

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“Without construction workers, including those in IT, planning, administration and management, as well as the frontline trades, there can be no new homes or other infrastructure and our economy will grind to a halt.” 

When asked to select words describing construction jobs, “overly physical” and “dangerous” were among the top three answers selected by survey respondents. 

People over 55 years old were the least likely to have construction careers, while men were more likely to than women. 

The CIOB has called for more to be done to put vocational qualifications on a level playing field with university degree courses to help improve the industry’s reputation. 

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Gumble added: “As an industry we must take the lead in promoting construction as a viable career with strong financial and career growth prospects, but we also need the support of education leaders, including careers advisors, to change attitudes and this needs to start with government.  

“We want to see construction better represented in schemes to promote STEM [science, technology, engineering and maths] careers and vocational qualifications, not just in construction but more widely, given equal esteem with university degrees.  

“Construction must be promoted as a sector in which people can make a positive difference, drive sustainability, improve their communities and leave a real legacy.”