Get ahead: get into construction

Richard Furlong - City Surveys Group

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Published: 5th January 2017

This Article was Written by: Richard Furlong - City Surveys Group


A Chartered Institute of Building (CIOB) report released just before Christmas stressed the critical role construction plays in reversing the declining levels of economic and social mobility in the UK.

It suggests that if individuals want to get ahead then construction should be a career choice for serious consideration; particularly for those living in deprived areas of the UK.

Brian Green, former Construction News journalist, who wrote the report Social Mobility and Construction: Building Routes to Opportunity, asserts that skilled employment offers social status and the opportunity to generate a steady income.

In addition to being well paid, it also provides many with a chance of professional development within their chosen role, from the trades through to professional management roles.

The report surveyed 1,094 working adults and shows how construction ranks near the top of UK industries for social and economic mobility.

Where other industries have downsized the number of skilled employees, a third of all employment in the skilled worker is made up from the construction industry.

The report illustrates the strength of the UK construction industry and its ability to perform as an enabler of social mobility, seeing many workers and managers move up the ranks where they have previously been unsuccessful in other careers, or in education.

If the construction industry hopes to establish itself as the career choice of the masses, the report makes some suggestions about what can be done to help young people and the unemployed get into construction.

The suggestions focus on several key areas for improvement: in the industry itself, in government, in professional bodies, and in related institutions and construction businesses.

Key recommendations

  • Economic growth with construction at the centre of the boost toward growth;
  • Ability to access the construction profession regardless of background;
  • The built environment being a social mobiliser;
  • The unifying motive of social mobility being an organising force;
  • Schemes to allow entry to management from diverse backgrounds;
  • Supporting more sophisticated human resource management;
  • Development of the UK as a global centre of excellence for construction;
  • Education of the environment and the impact of architecture on social mobility;
  • Implementation of degree-level training for construction workers;
  • Working with local education establishments and communities to engage potential employees.

In support of the findings of the CIOB report, the government’s Social Mobility Commission recently warned about the widening gap between the rich and the poor. It stated that those from poorer backgrounds face increasing difficulty in gaining a foothold in a career that enables social mobility.

According to the CIOB report, for those from disadvantaged backgrounds, the construction industry is one of the best routes to success.

CIOB President Paul Nash has praised the report, making reference to his own personal experiences.

He said: “I joined the construction industry at 18 as a management trainee with a construction company; I went on to gain a postgraduate qualification through advice from my professional body. I now sit here as president of the CIOB. I never thought I’d be in the position I am today but stories such as mine show the quality of opportunity that exists in construction.

“Social mobility is fast becoming one of the defining issues of our time. This report highlights the importance of increasing social mobility and how the construction industry can work to promote greater equality of opportunity for all, particularly in a challenging social and economic environment.”

Mr Green’s report not only highlights the vital part construction can play in reversing deteriorating levels of economic and social mobility in the UK but may also go some way to address the widening construction skills gap faced by the industry.

To view the report in full click here.

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