Sector - Education & Training

Safeguarding the Future of the Younger Generation

This week is National Apprenticeship Week, a celebration which shines a light on apprentices within the UK and those businesses, including leading wet civil engineering firm Land & Water, which are committed to safeguarding the future of the next generation.

The Coronavirus pandemic has created a lot of uncertainty for young people – they have had to experience home learning, a range of social impacts, effecting mental health, and it has led to concern around future job security and economic stability.

According to a recent survey conducted by The Prince’s Trust, more than 40% of young people aged between 16 and 25 believe their future goals seem impossible to achieve. What’s more, 55% admitted the Coronavirus pandemic has made them fearful for their future.

This is heartbreaking and we need to ensure positive action is implemented to safeguard young people’s lives for years to come.

Throughout the pandemic, and three lockdown’s, Land & Water, alongside many other businesses in the civil engineering and construction industries, has continued to operate and deliver projects to clients across the UK.

Although there have been many challenges to overcome, and our sector has had to adapt to meet the ongoing government guidelines, proven itself to have an integral role in rebuilding our country’s economy.

In some aspects you could say that the civil engineering and construction industries can therefore provide young people with a stable career that should last a lifetime.

In August 2020, Land & Water welcomed four new apprentices to its team and I have been supporting them on their apprenticeship journey. It has been such an honor to watch them harness new skills which will support them for many years to come.

Last year, the Department for Education shared that apprenticeships in England were 46% lower than in 2019, creating a jobs crisis. Although in many ways this can’t be helped due to the pandemic, it is our belief at Land & Water that if we can create opportunities for the next generation then we must.

To simply cut out all opportunities for young people if we can afford not to risks being too shortsighted. After all we will in the future need skilled, experienced individuals to keep our sector moving. Therefore, we must create these career opportunities if we are able. Making use of the government’s apprenticeship support scheme, which provides funding to a company, is just one way to ensure a young person’s future is protected, whilst safeguarding your business at the same time.

As our sector is at the forefront of many government policies, we find ourselves experiencing a shortage of skilled labour – this is why getting young people interested in pursuing a career within our industry from an early age is extremely important.

Apprenticeships are a great way to enter the industry. A lot of young people don’t always know exactly what they want to do with their career and so this path provides a vocational way of learning to develop career options and a variety of transferrable skills whilst providing the incentive of being paid at the same time.

Over the past four years, Land & Water has supported the next generation in achieving qualifications through the Construction and Built Environment apprenticeship as well as the Civil Plant Operator course.

Our apprentices have been able to gain experience within a safe environment whilst also having the opportunity to get hands on experience and learnings, helping with not just career development but with personal growth too.

Throughout the past year, we have adapted their training to meet the requirements of the pandemic, putting training plans in place that still gives them exposure but keeping their safety at the forefront of our minds.

As we promote the civil engineering and construction industries amongst young people, it’s also important we address the stigma around the sector being male dominated.

As a woman in a STEM role this is incredibly important to me and fortunately, each year, we are seeing a gradual increase in the number of women in a STEM workforce. 

We now make up 10% of the engineering industry and 12% of the construction sector. 

However, there is still more that needs to be done to reduce the gender gap and just by creating a behavioral change within the industry we are able to achieve a more diverse and inclusive workplace.

It’s about generating awareness around the variety of roles in our sector from managing projects and visiting sites to working in business development and finance alongside the possibility of career progression. There truly is something for everyone.

Having a female led mentorship scheme or key role models within a company who are women can also inspire women to consider a career in the sector. This provides the young girl who is currently at school dreaming of her future career, the chance to picture herself as the next civil engineer. Businesses and its employers need to play their part and recognise the importance and value of gender diversity.

In the face of adversity and an unknown future, it is up to the civil engineering and construction industries to create a healthier and safer environment for the next generation. We must create an industry that attracts a diverse range of people, with multiple routes into careers. Only by doing this can we ensure the brightest possible future for our sector.

Lucy Lee is Contracts Manager at leading wet civil engineering firm Land & Water

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