How the investment in infrastructure could build a brighter future for young people

The construction industry received a boost last week with the Chancellor’s announcement that there would be further investment in infrastructure.

However we need to capitalise on this investment to ensure we create a workforce of tomorrow and address the skills gap which is threatening the industry.

Construction Youth Trust Held a dinner last week, hosted by Pinsent Masons, for  key industry figures to discuss how we can address some of these  challenges  and the consensus was that infrastructure could really be a key catalyst for enabling more young people to come into the sector.  It was felt that this new investment could give the construction industry the unique opportunity to make a difference amongst a lost generation of young people who aren’t in employment or training.  Many industries, construction included, are facing a skills gap where a retiring workforce is taking with it years of invaluable skill and experience and there is a lack of young people coming into the industry to sustain it.

With 21.6% of Britain’s 18-25 year olds out of work, the job of recruiting young people to address this skills gap should be an easy one. However, recent research shows that there were 275,000 new jobs in construction in 2011 but only 123,000 young people trained in construction related skills. So, clearly not enough young people are aware of construction as a career or receiving vocational training which prepares them for work in the industry. This means we need to raise awareness of what we do amongst young people and also be prepared to invest in the workforce of tomorrow ourselves by training them and giving them the skills which will be needed in these new infrastructure projects.

This isn’t something which construction is new to though. The industry has a rich history of apprenticeships - a great way of introducing young people to construction related work. There are, of course, many employers who have already proven their dedication to apprenticeships but we need more to commit and we  see it extended further into the broad pool of undiscovered talent that is out there.

There are of course other groups of young people who are needed to secure the future of the industry and who are currently  unaware of the opportunities it offers. In keeping with the ambitions of the President of ICE we seek to Inspire, Innovate and Inform and our Budding Brunels programme does just this with year 12 students which aims to widen participation, raise awareness of the professions and encourage fair access. 

This CIC endorsed programme helps young people understand the variety of roles in the sector and provides them meaningful  work placements. Initially Budding Brunels has been focused on University study, but in recognition of the fact some young people may want to ‘learn while they earn’, we are about to work with TFL and their partners to recruit young people from diverse backgrounds into Higher Apprenticeships including those covering Civil Engineering.  

By working with construction employers to raise awareness about the breadth of opportunity of the professions in the sector we really can help young people make informed decisions and employers see talent they might otherwise not see.

Through investment in young workers, employers can not only help to provide a secure future to a lost generation of hidden talent but also secure the future of the industry by investing in people who will be  the workforce of tomorrow.

To find out more about how you can get involved in  Construction Youth Trust’s work please visit www.constructionyouth.org.uk