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Construction, education and Generation Z

It’s no secret that the industry needs more young people.

In its construction skills network forecast, the CITB predicted that 168,500 construction jobs will be created between 2019-2023, offering school leavers and graduates the perfect opportunity to join the sector.

However it seems that few young people want to pursue a career in construction, or know what roles are available.

I have been speaking with those working within construction and education to find out what role schools currently play in attracting the next generation.

Alison Watson, founder and chief executive of education consultancy Class of Your Own, blames the English education system, in part, for preventing teenagers seeing construction as a viable career option.

The secondary school curriculum is largely based around the English Baccalaureate, she observes, a set of core academic subjects including English, maths and science.

Schools are assessed according to the number of pupils taking GCSEs in these core subjects, and on how well pupils do in their exams.

Ms Watson argues that this situation has led to a strong focus on academia in many schools around the country.

She describes the current English education system as “archaic” and “transfixed with academic progress” when compared with other countries.

Ms Watson calls instead for “transformational education”, with a more vocational focus where built environment skills might feature within the curriculum.

“It’s not rocket science, but unfortunately when England is resigned to core subjects and the English Baccalaureate, children will never see the industry.”

Lack of visibility is clearly an issue for construction.

According to a survey published in the spring by consultants Stace, 41 per cent of young people aged 16-18 say they are unaware of what a quantity surveyor does for a living, for example.

While investigating this topic, I’ve found no clarity about whether the responsibility for attracting the next generation ought to lie with schools or industry.

Many of the individuals I’ve spoken with disagreed over who would be best placed to sell the industry to teenagers, or how this could best be achieved, reflecting the lack of industry-wide consensus.

This lack of consistent thinking could be one reason why teenagers don’t want to join the industry. As referenced in our CN Briefing yesterday, it highlights how the industry and schools need to collaborate now on how best to attract the next generation, if the skills gap is not to grow ever wider.

Given that schools are unlikely to make the first move, surely the onus then falls on the industry.

Read CN’s in-depth report tomorrow on who’s responsible for attracting the next generation 

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