Liz Scott, Head of HR at Actavo Direct, discusses how companies can drive talent and train construction professionals of the future to bridge today’s current skills gap
The construction industry is on the rise, estimated to be worth $8tn (~£6.52tn) by 2030 and with growing demand for new-builds and global urbanisation, businesses need to nurture a new pipeline of talent to complete projects.
However, an ageing workforce and dwindling talent pool mean the industry is at risk of falling short.
So, how can companies drive talent recruitment and train the construction professionals of the future to bridge today’s current skills gap?
In 2015, the Education and Skills Act updated, requiring young people to either stay in education or undertake vocational training until they’re 18, where it was previously 17.
The act aims to produce a skilled future workforce and comes as a promising sign to the construction industry. Encouraging young people to undertake apprenticeship schemes drives a generation of talented workers towards learning a skill or trade, who may otherwise have looked for instant gratification in unskilled work that may initially have a higher starting wage.
Construction businesses who can design a comprehensive and rewarding apprenticeship scheme will benefit from attracting young talent and give them a strong chance of retaining trained employees at the end of the scheme.
While apprenticeships allow young employees to learn valuable skills and set them up for a successful future, it also gives construction businesses the potential to address skills gaps within their organisation.
Identify knowledge gaps within your organisation, for example, a dedicated health and safety professional, and design an apprenticeship scheme aimed at training an individual who can learn while applying their skills in the workplace. Once they’re fully trained, you’ll have a health and safety expert on the team without breaking the bank to higher an experienced senior specialist.
The key to a mutually beneficial apprenticeship scheme is flexibility and tailoring the scheme to the employee’s needs as well as yours. Be transparent about development opportunities and let them know there could be a place for them on the team even once they’ve completed their scheme.
Broadcast the benefits
Construction typically suffers from a misrepresentation as only manual work, when in reality the industry offers a range of specialised roles for skilled staff.
There’s a wealth of construction roles spanning many disciplines, including management, IT, design and architecture, HR and more.
Construction businesses must play their part in making the younger generation aware of the rewards on offer for a career in construction.
For example, technology specialists may be unaware that a role in construction could take them out of the office and into a lab and on-site to make breakthroughs in construction technology design.
This means targeting candidates at the source, for example, school and university careers fairs, to make them aware of the scope for successful construction careers.
Take the time to chat with students about their goals and how they could achieve them in construction. The first step to changing attitudes towards the industry is to influence the younger generations who can act as an example of what can be achieved for future generations.
Train and retain
While there needs to be a focus on talent acquisition in the construction industry, there’s already a wealth of underused talent in the ranks at many companies.
For most businesses, the focus is on efficiency and this can often see employees’ development put on the backburner. The reality is, those willing to invest time and resources in developing staff will see an impressive return on investment.
The construction industry needs to focus on training and development for employees of all ages and disciplines, helping each employee fulfil their potential and expand their skillsets.
Employees prefer different types of training based on their age and learning styles. Talk with staff to discover which areas they’d like to improve or where they’d like to develop their skills further. Ask them how they’d prefer to approach training and decide how it to work it around their work schedule without being too disruptive.
For younger employees, it may be shadowing a senior employee or manager to get a taste for project management work. This training could be supplemented with weekly tasks to be reviewed by a manager or could act as practical experience alongside a management training course provided by third-party certification.
Other employees may prefer to attend a workshop or training seminar to learn new skills, which could see them earn a qualification and bring new ideas and experiences back to the company to assist wider team growth and development.
Keep a record of training undertaken by employees and set regular annual goals for growth to help you track employees’ progression.
The key to employee progression is transparency at every stage. Let employees know you’re motivated for them to progress and make sure they know your door is always open if they want to chat about anything related to their goals and career growth.
Diversity is key
The current gender gap in construction roles is alarming, with just 13% of industry employees made up by women. When considering just on-site roles, this drops to 1%.
The industry has a lot to learn and benefit from this untapped talent resource and more needs to be done to make the industry more accessible and to make construction a desirable career for anyone.
Research shows diverse workforces are linked to increased profitability, creativity and problem-solving. Businesses have so much to gain from a range of experiences and perspectives, but the problem is breaking the traditional stigma around women pursuing careers in construction.
Construction companies can play their part by actively restructuring their recruitment process to eliminate any gender bias in job adverts and to celebrate female employees. This could be in the form of case studies or employee profiles on their website.
Female employees in management roles can also spearhead recruitment drives in universities and more to show the rewards on offer for a career in the industry.
It’s also down to employers to take a firm stand against workplace discrimination. Employers should make it clear they hold a zero-tolerance policy to discrimination and put together a clear protocol for dealing with problems, showing their commitment to making an inclusive environment for all employees.
Those able to promote inclusion across their entire recruitment and talent management offerings will benefit from the skills of brightest construction talent.
Head of HR