Speaking on the Leaders Council podcast, joint managing director of Essex construction firm Acclaim Contracts, Ian Duggan, stressed the need for a change in the perception of the construction industry to inspire more youngsters to pursue careers in the sector.
Duggan put himself firmly behind career development, discussing Acclaim’s involvement in apprenticeship schemes in partnership with local colleges.
He said: “To set themselves apart in the job market, youngsters need to be putting themselves out there and learning from others. Employers value hard workers and people who show themselves to be team players.
“We use apprenticeships schemes for youngsters coming through into our sector from local colleges and help get them using their carpentry and roofing skills. It is hard these days to get young people into these roles, as opposed to sectors such as IT.”
Duggan believes that the education system has had a major hand in shifting promising youngsters away from more manual roles and expressed a wish to see an increase in vocational courses in schools and colleges.
“I think the education system has pushed people down this route. Working outdoors and getting your hands dirty is no longer considered the thing to do.
“In terms of changing the perception of our sector, I’d like to see more hands on courses in schools and colleges. There were many more construction and skilled courses at the college stage when I was younger. If we can get more young people on board at this level, it can only help the sector.”
Duggan added that encouraging British young people to utilise different skills working outdoors and pursuing a trade in construction, carpentry or roofing can only help prove their ability as a team player and leave a clear path to progression toward a worthwhile career.
Indeed, within the Acclaim Contracts business, qualities such as trustworthiness, good communication teamwork and a strong work ethic are held in high esteem, and they have been key to helping the business navigate its way through the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic which has blighted industry across the world.
Duggan explained: “Dealing with Covid-19 has been challenging, especially since we have been completing essential works for the Ministry of Defence and BT that we have had no choice but to continue with, in line with the new safety procedures.
“Luckily, we work on roof level and are comprised of small and tight-knit teams, so it is easier for us to accommodate social distancing. We are planning for working this way long-term, to ensure everyone on site can stay safe and the staff are fully behind this.
“A true test of leadership is how you function in a crisis. I encourage people to work together, I encourage people to express themselves and take leadership on for themselves and my team has responded.”
As the UK seeks to rebuild the economy following the impact of Covid-19, chancellor Rishi Sunak has announced a £111 million scheme which will generate 30,000 new traineeships to help stave off mass unemployment.
The traineeships aim to improve young people’s prospects by providing classroom-based lessons for pupils aged 16 to 24 in the areas of mathematics, English, and CV writing, and crucially, come with 90 hours maximum of work experience.
The initiative will see firms provided with a £1,000 cash bonus for every new work experience place they offer out up to £10,000.
Should the scheme prove successful in bringing in youngsters and giving an incentive to employers to participate, it could go some way to fulfilling Duggan’s hopes of encouraging a new wave of young people to become invested in the construction industry and begin to form the change in perception that the sector longs for. The government's role will now be to ensure that the construction industry is one that will benefit from the scheme.