Housebuilding faces workforce crisis without women and young people

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Research from the NHBC has warned in order to avoid a workforce crisis more must be done to attract women and young people into housebuilding

Research from the NHBC Foundation has revealed a workforce crisis is looming in the housebuilding sector caused by an over-reliance on an ageing, male-dominated workforce. To fill this gap more must be done to attract women and young people to the industry.

The sector is undoubtedly heading towards a crossroads, with Brexit and immigration controls looming on the horizon.

The government is already facing difficulties with its target to build one million new homes by 2020. Estimates suggest the sector needs to recruit another 700,000 people to replace those workers retiring or moving on, plus an extra 120,000 to meet the government’s homebuilding target. Now, the NHBC is calling on the government and housebuilders to act and address the issue.

Male-dominated field

The report is based on data from the Office of National Statistics’ Labour Force Survey and detailed interviews with housebuilding companies and senior industry commentators. It revealed only 12 per cent of the UK’s housebuilding workforce is female. The majority of which are in secretarial or administration roles. Less than four per cent are in a skilled trade role.

The NHBC report warned that young people, in particular girls, were put off the sector because of the stereotypical image of it being a male-dominated field.

Recruitment is further hindered by the belief work takes place outdoors in all weathers; fears of a sexist environment; over reliance on gender biased recruitment advertising; skilled workers leaving the industry during downturns; and the large numbers of outsourced contractors.

The report found women were underrepresented in skilled, technical and managerial roles in housebuilding. It warned outdated careers advice in schools was falling to make young people aware of the diversity of job roles available.

NHBC Head of Research and Innovation Neil Smith said: “Young people and young women in particular need to be made aware of the wide range of roles in the house-building industry.

“From design to engineering and site management, many careers in house building are rewarding and well paid, offering work in a variety of roles and environments.”

Recommendations

A number of recommendations have been suggested to help tackle this issue, including recognition from the government that there is a problem with diversity in the industry; more investment in recruitment, even during downturns; and more focus on career guidance in schools.

Housebuilders and human resources teams are advised to work together to ensure a consistent approach to tackling diversity; to draw on the lessons learnt in other industries that have successfully tackled diversity; and to implement greater funding opportunities for initiatives such as apprenticeship academies.

Furthermore, social media should be utilised more effectively to market housebuilding careers; companies should be encouraged to promote women into senior positions and non-executive board roles; and there should be a focus on career progression for current staff allowing interested parties to retrain in trade and technical roles.

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