More than half of young people have never considered working in construction


The construction industry’s problems in attracting young people have been laid bare in a new survey which estimates that more than half have never considered working in the sector.

A Redrow poll, timed to coincide with the start of National Apprenticeship Week, found that on top of 52% of youngsters failing to give a career in construction a thought, 9% of parents would actively discourage their children from working in the industry.

Just weeks after Building’s Brexit survey highlighted pressing concerns about a shortage of skilled workers, Redrow said its findings suggested “a lack of adequate advice on construction careers and apprenticeships in schools”.

The report found that half (50%) of young people questioned answered “no” when asked if information on careers in construction had ever been discussed with them verbally by a teacher or had been made readily available in careers literature.

The findings come as construction firms raise concerns about the potential impact of a ‘hard Brexit’ on labour shortages. Building’s Brexit survey of more than 2,000 readers last month found an overwhelming majority (84%) thought some or all EU construction workers should have free movement under the final Brexit deal.

Redrow said young men were more likely to have been given advice on a career in construction, with 40% having received this, while 29% of young women had received similar guidance.

The result, the firm argued, was that just 30% of young men questioned said a career in construction was a possibility for them and a mere 16% of young women. Nearly a third (32%) of young people said they had not received any information at school about apprenticeships.

Perception of the sector was also misguided, Redrow said, with more than half (55%) believing a career in construction “mostly involves manually labour”.

Redrow said industry collaboration was key to overcoming the skills barrier, while the range of careers available in the sector needed to be better publicised.

The industry also needed to highlight the benefits of a career in construction, as well as the comparative costs of an apprenticeship versus doing a degree at university.

Redrow’s report also said that working closely with parents - including industry ‘open days’ - the sector could forge better communication and understanding of what a career in the construction sector involved.

Karen Jones, Redrow’s HR director, said: “Our research highlights the inadequacy of the careers provision in schools in relation to construction and apprenticeships. It is not right that most young people are not even considering a career in housebuilding or construction or that advice on apprenticeships is not dished out evenly to our girls and boys.

“We therefore welcome the commitment made by Robert Halfon, Minister for Skills, earlier this year to publish a comprehensive careers strategy - careers education and the quality of provision available at schools must be enhanced and widened. We hope the findings in this report act as real food for thought.”

Jones said the industry must get better at shouting about the benefits of both the apprenticeship route and careers in construction.

“We must also think outside the box: parents are so crucial to shaping their child’s future and we should be reaching out to them and encouraging them to see the range of fulfilling careers available,” she added.