Skills:Building a Brighter Future

Infrastructure work: An opportunity to give young school leavers construction skills training.  

Executive Director Christine Townley features in New Civil Engineer,an article focussing on infrastructure and helping young people into employment:

The construction industry received a boost this month with Chancellor George Osborne’s announcement that there would be further investment in infrastructure.

However, we need to capitalise on this investment to ensure we create a workforce of tomorrow and address the skills gap, which is threatening the industry. The Construction Youth Trust held a dinner earlier this month, hosted by law firm Pinsent Masons, for key industry figures to discuss how we can address some of these challenges and the consensus was that infrastructure could really be a key catalyst for enabling more young people to come into the sector.

It was felt that this new investment could give the construction industry the unique opportunity to make a difference among a lost generation of young people who aren’t in employment or training.

Many industries, construction included, are facing a skills gap where a retiring workforce is taking with it years of invaluable skill and experience and there is a lack of young people coming into the industry to sustain it.

With 21.6% of Britain’s 18 to 25 year olds out of work, the job of recruiting young people to address this skills gap should be an easy one. However, recent research shows that there were 275,000 new jobs in construction in 2011 but only 123,000 young people trained in construction related skills.

So, clearly not enough young people are aware of construction as a career or receiving vocational training which prepares them for work in the industry. This means we need to raise awareness of what we do among young people and also be prepared to invest in the workforce of tomorrow ourselves by training them and giving them the skills which will be needed in these new infrastructure projects.

This isn’t something which construction is new to though. The industry has a rich history of apprenticeships - a great way of introducing young people to construction related work. There are, of course, many employers who have already proved their dedication to apprenticeships but we need more to commit and we see it extended further into the broad pool of undiscovered talent that is out there.

There are of course other groups of young people who are needed to secure the industry’s future and who are currently unaware of the opportunities it offers. In keeping with the ambitions of the ICE President we seek to inspire, innovate and inform and the Construction Youth Trust’s Budding Brunels programme does just this with year 12 students by aiming to widen participation, raise awareness of the professions and encourage fair access.

This Construction Industry Council endorsed programme helps young people understand the variety of roles in the sector and provides them meaningful work placements.

Initially Budding Brunels has been focused on university study, but in recognition of the fact some young people may want to “learn while they earn”, we are about to work with Transport for London and its partners to recruit young people from diverse backgrounds into higher apprenticeships including those covering civil engineering.

By working with construction employers to raise awareness about the breadth of opportunity of the professions in the sector we really can help young people make informed decisions and make employers see talent they might otherwise not see.

Through investment in young workers, employers can not only help to provide a secure future to a lost generation of hidden talent but also secure the future of the industry by investing in people who will be the workforce of tomorrow.