Opinion Piece - 10 Years at the Trust by Christine Townley

Executive Director Christine Townley reflects on her first decade at the Trust as a call to arms for the indsutry to support the next ten years of growth.

It is ten years since I joined the Trust and over that time there have been some significant challenges for young people during a tough recession.  I have thoroughly enjoyed the last decade and the opportunities we have helped make for our young people – ten years has taught me we can make a difference and, with the wind behind us, should be able to continue to make a positive difference for more young people as we move into more prosperous times. The Trust engaged with over 7000 young people last year, an increase from fewer than 2000 a year, 10 years ago.

You have helped us build this momentum through difficult times, and It is heartening now to see the industry on the up and to hear from employers that they are looking to recruit new blood.  The Trust can play a real part in revealing hidden talent, bridging the gap between communities and construction.  Supporting young people on their journey to work is crucial for some to stop them falling down the cracks.

Our Budding Builders programme helps young people, particularly those not in education or work, to get a taste of the trades and with the support of the industry, into work placements, apprenticeships and employment..  Budding Brunels focuses on sixth formers, particularly from high free school meal schools, get a real feel for the breadth of professions in the sector.  Both programmes work  becausewe work alongside employers  - ensuring that what we do is demand  led.

By partnering with clients and employers we can help the sector come together in a collaborative  way to promote ‘ConstructionUK PLC’ to young people and their influencers.  We all know that careers guidance is not always good; it is easy to criticise schools and teachers but I think that would be unfair.  How can they know and understand the breadth of opportunity in 27 sectors?  We must join forces with employers to ensure that school students everywhere have the chance to get to know about the broad range of roles that exist in the built environment.

One employer mentioned recently that they were  having to turn away work because they have not got the staff.  There is a tension between the skills shortages faced by the sector and the fact that we still have nearly a million young people unemployed.

I have been to several meetings recently that highlight the importance clients and employers are placing on getting the word into schools, with the challenge of skills gaps being at the forefront of their minds. 

In one meeting, we  recently hosted a round table meeting with HS2, Crossrail, Network Rail and Transport for London and agreed to work together to deliver a Budding Brunels course in West London to expose students to the professional opportunities available across the work of all four key clients and their supply chains.

At another meeting we were presented with a  business plan and delivery model for our schools-facing work that has been developed for us by Laing O’Rourke’s ‘Young Guns’.  It is great to have the industry working with us closely to help us develop an effective programme of information and advice and guidance for young people that really brings the industry to life and helps attract a more diverse workforce.

Ten years on, and I now look forward to working with you all to make an even bigger contribution to bridging the gaps between communities and construction and turning the heads of even more young people towards this wonderful industry.  Do get in touch, do get on board – together we can inspire and enable even more young people to build better futures.