Golden Oldies in the Construction Industry
No – we’re not talking about Top of the Pops from the seventies and eighties – we’re talking about people here – some of the most experienced and skilled workers in the construction industry – our very own “Golden Oldies”. Rather than being considered past it, older construction workers are now being valued as the experienced experts they are, people who’ve worked in the industry for all of their lives and know our sector inside out. These people really are worth their weight in gold as the industry is struggling to overcome a serious skills shortage that sees the industry struggling to keep up with future demands.
We’ve reported many times on how the construction industry has a lack of skilled workers who are necessary to meet the demands for 21st Century housing and infrastructure projects. We’ve written about the need to attract more youngsters into choosing a career in construction and how the industry itself needs to become more inclusive, employing more women and minorities in order to succeed in future years. What we haven’t already addressed is the requirement to retain these older, more experienced construction sector workers so today that’s the issue we want to address. It is vital for constructing to recognise the value of these older employees’ expertise so that we can harness it for the future, benefitting our industry as we forge ahead.
This presents a challenge for the construction sector – we need to ensure that these older workers are happy in their working environment so that we can capture the years of insight they hold before they retire. Despite the fact that the number of construction workers aged over 45 saw an increase of 13% between 1991 and 2011, a massive 19% of the UK workforce is due to retire within the next five to ten years.
Instead of seeing the changes in our industry that were driven by technology as a threat, we need to help older workers view technology as an enabler. We should by using and applying their experience into how we implement emerging technologies so that we can combine cutting edge tech skills with the expertise and experience of older workers in a way that can be used to solve multiple issues throughout our construction processes.
We’re all aware of the urgent need to change the public perception of construction work in order to make it an attractive option for youngster who would not normally consider a career in our sector. However, it’s not just that we need to attract this new generation of workers, we need to keep them once they’ve begun to work in our industry. How they see the industry treating older workers will be a vital component in achieving this.
We would also benefit from tempting back some of the workers who have taken early retirement by showing them the changes that have been made in recent years and the wide range of roles that are now available as a result. Older workers are generally more measured in their approach, have a wide range of skills and would be the ideal mentors for the younger generation that we hope to employ in the future.