A New Generation for the Construction Industry?

A New Generation for the Construction Industry?

13th May 2019

The construction industry here in the UK represents a vital part of our economy, generating around £90 billion each year, which is 6.7% of our GDP.  Employing a workforce nearly 3 million strong, which is 10% of the British jobs market, construction is the third largest industry sector. 

However, industry pundits are voicing concern about our sector’s ageing workforce.  The Federation of Master Builders (FMB) has revealed that nearly a quarter (22%) of those working in the construction industry are over the age of fifty, and 15% of those are in their sixties!   This means that a vast proportion of the workers in the construction industry will be retiring over the next decade or so, and attracting new blood into the building trade is vital for the future of construction here in the UK.

 Whilst the construction industry as a whole was initially slow to adopt digital technologies, this has changed rapidly in recent years and we’re witnessing an increase in the use of innovative new ways of working.  The new generation has grown up with these digital technologies and youngsters nowadays are totally at ease using computers, tablets and mobile devices for work as well as for leisure purposes. 

It’s hoped that the new technological applications in the construction industry will help to encourage more youngsters to opt for a career in construction in the future.  The sector has experienced a downturn in new recruits in recent years and the ageing workforce, combined with the fact that Brexit is likely to result in fewer overseas workers being available to work in the UK construction industry, means that it’s imperative that we attract a new generation of workers into the building game. 

However, in order to entice a new generation of construction workers into the sector, an industry-wide approach will be necessary.  We need to promote our sector and let young people, especially in schools, know about the diverse roles and career prospects available in the 21st Century construction sector.  Traditionally, those who’ve worked in construction have followed in the footsteps of their fathers, but this has changed in recent decades as the jobs market has exploded with new types of jobs, thanks in large part due to the type of technology that it’s hoped will make construction more appealing to a new generation.

According to a report published by the Construction Industry Training Board (CITB) which surveyed teenagers from the age of 14 to 19 years, the appeal of working in construction is 4.3 out of 10 for boys and 3.2 for girls!  This clearly demonstrates the negative attitude so many youngsters have towards a career in construction, they see it as hard outdoor work that gets them dirty, and suitable for the youngsters who are not going to university or college. 

This needs to change if we want to make sure there are enough construction workers to fulfil the projects that we’re likely to see going forward.  The research showed that parents and teachers are more likely to encourage youngsters into other industries where they believe there are more opportunities for career progress.  This means that it’s not just the youngsters we need to reach out to right now, we need to reach out to teachers and parents too, to let them know that a career in construction is no longer about digging and getting dirty, but that there is a wealth of opportunity in an exciting new range of jobs.