Today’s Star columnist: Meg Munn MP

Meg Munn MP
Meg Munn MP
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This city, the country, need more houses.

But the construction industry faces problems which mean we may not get them. One in five construction workers are approaching retirement, and at the moment the industry is not attractive enough – dirty, heavy work with few prospects. But this is far from the truth. There’s a wide range of roles in the industry, many of them highly skilled and well paid, with most heavy work being done by machines.

The industry needs around 182,000 new skilled workers by 2018, a lot of people to be recruited and trained for well-paid regular work. The growing demand for people provides an opportunity to broaden the workforce, to recruit more women as well as more men. At the moment only 11% of the overall workforce are female, with 1% in the manual trades.

In Sheffield, Henry Boot construction recognise this pressure and are visiting schools to encourage more young people to consider careers in construction. They have also decided to encourage more women to join the workforce. Around 18% of their employees are female, and the company wants to increase this.

Like many male dominated industries construction can be difficult for women, having to overcome sexism and lack of respect on site. The Construction Industry Training Board (CITB) is encouraging change by promoting the “Be Fair” Framework to tackle unfair practices and inequalities.

Alongside changing this outdated culture, the industry is starting to recognise the importance of greater flexibility in work practices which would allow those with caring responsibilities, or disabilities, to continue to work. Those companies who change their working practises are more able to hold on to scarce skilled and experienced staff.

Many women in the sector talk of the pride they feel being involved in a construction project, whether a bridge, new shopping centre or one of the buildings springing up in the city centre. Promoting the best in construction, showing the pride from those who built them, maybe that’s the best way of encouraging the young to see this industry as an opportunity.