As the construction industry forges ahead with housing and commercial developments around the UK, there’s been a shortage of candidates to fill the growing number of job opportunities that are being created. This is putting the economic recovery in the longer term at risk, unless the industry sees a return to apprenticeships and less reliance on university graduates, as Christine Scott, the Director of Development and Construction for Madison Berkeley, points out.
“Universities are not for everyone, we need to be offering our young people different routes into the industry,” explains Christine. “Apprenticeships train and qualify youngsters on the job whilst they earn. Already it provides a greater attraction for those who cannot afford university and the recruitment talent pool is widening for businesses and their investors.”
Christine says a return to apprenticeships, with more of the larger companies onboard, could be a way of getting hold of diverse and talented individuals straight from school. It comes as The Department for Education said it had to surrender £250m of unused apprenticeship funding last year, because demand for apprenticeships from employers was “lower than expected”, partly due to the impact of Covid-19. Government figures also showed that apprenticeship starts from those living in the most deprived areas had fallen from 22% to 14% at the end of 2020.
“With any kind of economic downturn we see a decline in graduates being taken on, which then affects the job market in the ensuing years,” says Christine. “Businesses find that later on they struggle to fill senior experienced roles. If we don’t invest in making the industry more attractive to young people then we will find ourselves ‘candidate short’.
“It’s no secret that we need to attract more diverse candidates, so now is the time to focus on inner city schools, as well as universities. In reality we need to be targeting children as young as 13 who are making their GCSE choices and show them what the industry can offer at all levels.”
The Real Estate sector is already addressing diversity and inclusion according to Madison Berkeley but there needs to be more. Christine adds: “The problem we have is that companies want diverse candidates for their roles but often with 10-15 years experience. If those people aren’t starting in the industry, then candidate lists won’t be able to reflect the diverse world we now operate in. If companies can’t reflect a workforce that mirrors their clients and investors, they may take their business elsewhere. The industry owes it to itself to hire with diversity and inclusion in mind from entry level roles upwards.
“We must not take our foot off the pedal in attracting young diverse people into our industry or businesses will stagnate.”