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How can businesses entice young people to a career in construction?

Chronic skills shortages in the construction sector have led to more construction roles being added to the UK’s shortage occupation list this March. But with 859,000 young people out of work, why is this sector struggling to recruit home grown talent?

The unfortunate truth is that a career in construction doesn’t appeal to many young people – our Youth Misspent research reveals that only 6% of young people want to work in the construction sector, and these low levels of interest are consistent across socio-economic backgrounds.

Construction is one of the highest paid industries, as uncovered by our Great Jobs research, but young people clearly need more than just a high salary to entice them. When asked why they’re turned off by a career in construction, over a third (34%) of young people feel like they lack the right skills, 35% are put off by manual work and 28% believe they lack the knowledge about the careers available to them.

Given construction is set to play a critical role in the country’s infrastructure and growth plans, diversifying the workforce and appealing to a younger generation will be crucial to fill the growing number of vacant job roles, address the skills shortage, keep critical projects running and see long-term business success.

This means employers will need to change perceptions if they want to recruit new talent into a career in construction. And they need to act fast – as recent research from Lightcast estimates that the industry will need to fill a staggering 250,000 job vacancies between 2022-2027; and 34,000 of those are brand-new jobs that didn’t exist before.

There are several ways businesses can attract young people to a career in construction, which all come down to skills, education, and accessibility.

Highlight the importance of construction

Employers are primarily responsible for changing perceptions of the industry. But the government must also place a higher value on construction – it’s the industry that builds the structures we live, work, learn and shop in, our transport infrastructure and many other vital things besides. We sometimes forget how important construction is, which is why we need to position it as one of the most vital foundations to our economy. Doing so will encourage the people we need into key roles to elevate the construction space.

Focus on ways to elevate young people’s skills

Apprenticeships, skills bootcamps and the newly launched T-Levels are all ways for employers to recruit and train young talent, but employers aren’t always making the most of them. To see the return, employers need to invest their time and resource into these programmes and train up a new generation of skilled workers. Increased investment will lead to a quicker onboarding of recently trained individuals with the industry knowledge to meet their recruitment requirements.

Show young people the ropes

At school, students learn about careers in medicine, education, and the public sector but often far less detail on careers in vocational areas such as construction and the wide range of different job roles available to them in these sectors. There is a key opportunity for construction businesses to engage more closely with schools, offering students work placements and show them what their day-to-day looks like. Doing this will increase accessibility into the industry and showcase the exciting job roles available to young people, that they may not even know exist.

Make it easier for people to apply for a career in construction

We can’t demand much experience from young people who haven’t worked before. It can put them off completing an application process and block a vital talent pool at a time when businesses can’t afford to do so.

To overcome the issue, businesses should consider updating their application process to focus on attitude and aptitude – which most young people have heaps of. They’ll feel more confident applying to the role before giving them the opportunity to learn on the job. Young people can therefore focus on the personality traits that make them a right fit for the job. Focusing on a good attitude and eagerness for learning will create a more accessible and appealing perception of the construction industry.

Businesses have a crucial role to play in making construction an appealing industry for young people. A combination of education, skills and accessibility will ensure construction businesses are best placed to attract top young talent as we approach an exciting decade for the sector.

Article supplied by Andy Moss, Managing Director, Employer Solutions at City & Guilds

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