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Could women help with the skills shortage?

2nd April 2014

It was truly inspiring to see women across the construction sector being celebrated and awarded for their exceptional work and skills at the recent Women in Construction Awards.

Seeing so many talented females demonstrates that women will continue to push boundaries and show they are equally as skilled and equipped as their male counterparts. For the most, I think it was an evening to demonstrate the real skill set, creativity and passion women add to the industry and their sheer determination to succeed in what is still a very male dominated environment.

The Guardian recently published a news article named “High-tech, multi-skilled construction industry needs more women”. They stated that women account for only 11 percent of the construction workforce and only one percent for manual trades compared to 50 percent in financial services, 49 percent in media, 46 percent of all doctors, 27 percent of all police officers and 24 per cent of all judges. The latest Smith Institute Report shows that construction still remains largely a no-go area for women.

Having been in construction recruitment for over 10 years, I could sadly count on both hands the number of female placements I have made compared to the hundreds that I have made of which are male.

Within a sector that is crying out for new skills, could the construction sector be missing a trick? Women add so much value to the workplace and having only 11 percent representing the construction sector means there is a vast amount of female talent still to be discovered. Attracting more women to the sector could undeniably help reduce the skills shortages we have been experiencing over the past few years.

So the big question is: How do we make the construction sector more attractive to women? Traditionally, unless your family works in construction, I don’t think many women would even give the sector a second thought due to essentially stereotypical views on the sector.

It’s about changing the opinions of what a construction career can offer a woman. Good practice and company programmes invested to attract women need to be considered to help change the opinion but more importantly demonstrate the vast array of job roles on offer from architecture to quantity surveying right through to life on site in a manual trade.

 “Time to think differently” is the message from the Construction Youth Trust (CYT) and the Construction Industry Training Board (CITB) who are leading the charge to raise awareness and help women access training and employment opportunities.

Some employers are now reviewing their recruitment policies. Bovis Lend Lease has a long-standing women’s mentoring programme. Wates is now actively seeking to recruit more women and some housing associations are adapting their apprenticeship schemes to attract more women.

If we can persuade young women that a job in construction can be exciting, rewarding and long lasting then the construction sector is as good as any other to build their career!

Hannah Lever
Business Development Director

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