From the research findings, it is obvious that there is a disconnection between young people's perception of construction and the reality of working in the industry. Rather than see it as diverse, innovative and exciting. Young people focus on the stereotypical negative image that has been haunting the industry for years. As a result, construction is not a career of choice for them. The recommendations below look at ways the industry, as a collaborative entity, can challenge these perceptions and promote itself as a viable and attractive career option for young people.
1.1 CITB to reinvest and co-ordinate a collaborative approach
In the CITB's Annual Report 2015, of the £182.8m collected for the levy, £89.1m funded apprenticeships while only £0.7m went on research, marketing campaigns and press coverage.
With the new apprenticeship levy launching in 2017, it is a perfect opportunity for the CITB to look to reinvest their training levy to lead and co-ordinate industry engagement with young people to attract them to pursue a career within construction through a more cohesive and structured approach
There is currently a lot of work done by different stakeholders to engage with young people. However, there is much duplication, it is disjointed and there is no effective way finding as recognised by Christie Townley at this year's UK Construction.
“There are many disparate groups and some fantastic examples of projects aimed at improving the reputation of the industry and attracting talent but they are working in silos – we're not currently benefiting from any cumulative mass”.
Even through carrying out this research, the number of different sources and the amount of information available was overwhelming, making it difficult to decipher which to utilise. This must be even more confusing for young people and their advisors and raises the question as to how effective the industry really is at sending out a consistent message when promoting construction as an industry for consideration in career choice.
With young people now exposed to a huge number of sources of information and the speed in which they can access this information through new technology, the industry needs to be smarter about how it promotes itself when competing for young people's attention against other industries. It needs to look hard at how it ensures information is easily accessible, understandable and that everything done by different parties is complimentary rather than in conflict.
Success in this area will only happen if the industry, government, local authorities and education work in a more joined up, collaborative way led by one overarching organisation and the CITB seems most viable option to take on this mantle.
This would require feed in from all relevant stakeholders to ensure any strategic planning incorporates a true and realistic grass roots perspective, which would ensure measures introduced work on a practical level. It would also require an in- depth analysis of all activity currently undertaken and activity planned to see where there is duplication as well as gaps, which could be filled by all working together.
This partnership approach would also allow movement to try to remove obstacles that hinder effective engagement activity. For example, the CITB, backed by industry partners, could lobby government on the introduction of school incentivising for non-academic student achievements. This could then be used to raise the perception of all roles within the industry whether trade, professional or technical and open the door to promote it as one which is available for a wide range of young people with different skills and abilities, all worthy of equal recognition and success.
1.2 Investment in a creative, mainstream, industry
The construction industry does not appear to have considered, a large-scale industry wide promotional campaign run through mainstream media. Given the scale of the problem, this could be a viable option for changing young people's perceptions of working in the industry.
Taking the recent ‘Made in the Royal Navy' recruitment campaign as a good case study for reference, this demonstrated an industry in a similar position take a very different approach to previous recruitment drives by utilising an advertising strategy across multiple platforms, changing the messaging and focusing on different channels of communication. Working with a creative agency, the Royal Navy produced a campaign that focused not specifically on the individual job roles available but on the accessibility of a career with the Royal Navy and the experience, it could provide. By highlighting different individual's journey into the industry, it allowed easy identification with the characters and showed it as an exciting career option. All within 30 seconds!
The CITB, in its supervisory role as suggested above, could utilise some of the levy to represent the construction industry in a similar approach with the aim of gaining interest, inciting excitement, dispelling myths and encouraging follow up.
From the research carried out in this report, which shows a lack of association between construction and the finished project, such a campaign should look to focus on showing how construction moves from inception to completion, while taking viewers on a journey through the eyes of someone who works in the industry with whom they can relate. Imagine the impact that showing the personal journey of someone who had helped build the Olympic Stadium, or the Glenfinnan viaduct leading to Hogwarts could have in changing young people's perceptions of what it is like to work in construction.
Any such campaign should also focus on the wider benefits derived from a career in construction linking with what young people want from a career. From this study, this appears to be that it is accessible to all through a wide range of opportunities, has a positive social impact, is a fun, dynamic place to be and provides a sense of pride in work.
Pride in work and attainment of success, is something many people working in construction say, is one of their main drivers in their career. This fits with the requirements above and provides the perfect message for such a campaign - “I helped build that”.
Any such large-scale campaign could also be used to diminish the negative image of construction, promote diversity and break down barriers.
Success however will only be through a co-ordinated campaign complimented and promoted on company and individual project level. This includes the introduction of a central source of wayfinding to direct people to find out where to go for more information, to ensure confusion is minimised and information accessible.
Further consistent and creative follow up messaging would also be needed. In short, this is not something, which would work in isolation.
1.3 Investigate the influence of social media
While there is still a place for more traditional ‘keep it in the family' type recruitment practices, it is important to consider ways in which to access young people who perhaps are not as exposed to construction through new technology, popular mass media such as reality TV and most importantly, social media.
With parental influence shown to decrease as young people age and the introduction of new careers such as You Tuber and Instagrammer, the influence of social media on young people's aspirations, as well as the way they gain information, is an important consideration for the industry.
Ofcom (2014) discuss how, because of growing up in the digital age, 12-15 year olds are developing fundamentally different communication habits than older generations, even compared to 16-24 year olds. Despite this, and the increase in use of social media by many within construction, understanding of how and by who each of the different channels are used is an important area that needs more detailed exploration to ensure effectiveness in how it is used and it is recommended as a follow up study to this research paper. This is of particular importance if it is to be part of a larger scale, campaign as already discussed above.
Given how fast technology changes, the industry needs to take into consideration with any use of new technology, that provision needs to be made for constant review by people who understand the area to ensure it is up to date and relevant for modern day youth. Alison Watson of Design, Engineer, Construct (2014) describes children of the 21st century as ‘digital natives' who have an expectation to be constantly connected – perhaps the industry needs to see this as an opportunity and engage with young people for input into this area.
1.4 Engaging young people earlier
Most activity around careers in construction appears to be at secondary school age when children are picking their subject options for GCSE's. Taking into consideration research discussed in this paper, children of a younger age could be a better target for industry intervention - old enough to understand concepts which have been foreign to them when very young but still young enough to accept guidance with a high level of trust. Potentially, they are also at an age where they begin to differentiate academically, a great time to display careers that are specific to them as individuals.
One example of how the industry has missed a prime opportunity to engage with young people is at KidZania58 at Westfield Shopping Centre. KidZania is a real-life role play experience for 4-14 year olds blending learning and reality with entertainment. Children are given the opportunity to try out more than 60 real life role-play activities each crafted to teach kids essential life skills. Unfortunately, there is not a construction-focused experience offered.
This is not a call to discount working with older young people, more a recommendation for all different stakeholders in the industry to invest in providing more long-term engagement. Such an approach is generally only seen in framework, regeneration area and infrastructure projects, many of which have a commitment to leave a legacy for the local community in which they are developing.
This is a key focus for British Land in their community strategy for the ten-year re- development of Broadgate. Looking at ways to engage with young people ‘from age six to sixteen', this long-term approach aims to invest in young people from primary to secondary education with the potential to provide workforce to either employ from school or train further and support through higher education.
This is not an easy thing to set up, especially when working on an individual site / project, which may only be 2-3 years in construction and which may have stringent planning and client requirements. However, if organisations and government authorities were to take a long-term collaborative approach it could be an area open to rejuvenation of vital importance when looking at how to engage with young people of different ages is to have an informed and knowledgeable idea of how to engage with all different age groups in a way that is most appropriate and effective for them. As explored earlier in this research, younger children focus on imagination and fantasy while older children start to show signs of different influencers and making decisions that are more informed.
1.5 Recruit Education Advisors to integrate education into the construction industry
There is a disjoint between education and the industry. While teachers and careers advisors do not appear to know enough about the industry to advise young people effectively, it could be argued that the industry does not know enough about education to ensure that activities fit with curriculums or to keep updated in changes in education.
This could change by allowing education into the industry to work with organisations directly and in partnership. As is often done with employment brokerages, companies could integrate an education expert into their regional operations who would engage with schools, colleges and other third parties and look to incorporate practices to engage children from age 6 to 16 as discussed above.
These advisors would have an overall umbrella understanding of how the industry can best work to support education in providing the information needed to promote construction as a viable career. Alongside introducing initiatives, this role would provide support to on-site teams, co-ordinating training and communicating new developments and relevant information so that they can tailor activity accordingly and knowledgably with the relevant resources available to them.
The Education Advisor could look to produce an Education Engagement strategy working with the HR department and the project based community teams on ways to promote the industry in schools, dispel myths, produce relevant information and resources to aid with career choices, engage the supply chain, train internal teams and partner with relevant third parties. They would also act as the conduit for wider stakeholder working groups, working with other interested parties on larger scale campaigns and initiatives, and be an expert in their field able to advise internally and input into government and other campaigns and initiatives. “Careers advice and students' employment outcomes would be greatly improved if schools and FE colleges were better engaged with employers. The Government's Industrial Strategy for Construction identified the need for schools to engage the industry before GCSE curriculum choices are made, to allow students to pursue subjects that are prerequisites for their chosen career path in the construction industry.” Skills to Build Report (2014).
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