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Construction – it’s a woman’s job

The recent, unfortunate liquidation of Carillion revealed the best and worst of the construction industry.

It showed that a firm, even the very largest, is at risk if they are working with wafer-thin margins. This put the jobs of apprentices and experienced workers under threat, with the possibility of those skills being lost to the industry.

However, we have seen a huge industry response with hundreds of employers stepping forward to help the young apprentices into new employment. We at CITB and our partners in government also stepped up and took quick and effective action.

That has been great to see and be involved in, but the questions around how to boost productivity, recruit and retain a skilled work force, deliver strong profits and a stronger economy, remain.

For me, a big part of the answer lies in our people.

We must make our industry more attractive to people of all backgrounds, and then make the most of their skills.

In construction, we are missing out on a huge pool of talent because the industry is not seen as a first, second or even third choice for many women.

As the first female chief executive of CITB, I am determined to change that perception. My experience of the industry has been hugely positive, and I know other women feel the same way too.

Take Tracey Welch.

She’s a young woman from the north east who joined the construction industry as a scaffolder. She loved the camaraderie on site and the feeling that she was contributing to something real.

After a few years, she moved offsite, into an office-based role, where she is also now flourishing. For Tracey, the opportunity that construction has offered to change roles and grow her skills has been amazingly positive, and great for the company she works for as well.

I want more women to have that experience.

I want that because I believe, with a more diverse workforce, we will as a consequence be more productive as a sector. The evidence is clear, diversity makes a difference helping to make the right decisions which will make us more productive, building more homes, schools, hospitals, roads and railways. This difference is the difference diversity makes, reflecting the views, insights and perspectives garnered by different backgrounds and lived experiences.

But I know there are real reasons why women do not always feel that construction is a natural career choice.

We need to make positive steps to make construction more attractive to all.

That’s why we are developing our Construction Ambassador programme, so that young people can hear first-hand about what the industry is really like. We are also developing Go Construct and an industry-wide campaign to highlight to young people the exciting opportunities available.

On top of that, I would like to see an investment in digital skills. That will help us become more effective, but it will also help young people see that modern construction is a forward-looking industry that is relevant to the world in which they have grown up.

Finally, there is the job of completely embedding the fairness, inclusion and respect agenda into our industry, so that the environment throughout our sector is truly welcoming for everyone who wants to make a contribution.

At CITB, we see our role as providing the evidence base, the strategic insight and the targeted funding to help make these changes happen.

We know there is strong support from both industry and government to make construction more modern, more inclusive and, ultimately, more productive.

If we can stay the course we can see many more women, and people from all backgrounds, have great careers in our industry. If we do that, we will be a long way towards an industry that is fit for the future.