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We must open doors to tackle skills shortage

Do you remember your first site visit? I do.

It was the topping out at the amazing Skidmore Owens & Merrill-designed building spanning the tracks leading to London’s Liverpool Street station - the best of the bunch in the Broadgate development.

I remember feeling slightly nervous riding the hoist up to the 10th floor, marvelling at the steel arch supporting the frame of the building as it straddled the tracks.

So began my love affair with construction and I still feel in awe if ever I pass the offices, now known as Exchange House.

Important steps

Get it right, and a visit to a site can do that: open minds to the hugely complex world of construction and the phenomenal feats of engineering and logistics performed everyday by those that work in it.

That’s why the Open Doors initiative on 6-7 March - organised by the UK Contractors Group and for which Construction News is a partner - is so important.

“Sadly, attracting young people to the sector means overcoming unfair prejudices”

And as the alarms over skills shortages keep on getting louder, we need Open Doors to be even bigger and better and reach out to as many young people as we possibly can.

As UKCG chief executive Stephen Ratcliffe writes, the event is hoping to offer more than 5,000 visits across more than 80 sites around Great Britain - from offices in Cardiff to flood alleviation in Scotland and Crossrail in London.

That’s a great effort. And if you’d like to sign up, there’s still time.

First impressions are crucial

But for it to really capture the imagination of the next generation of construction managers, engineers and surveyors, contractors can’t afford to be less than energetic, accommodating and helpful - and inspiring in their hosting activities.

Ensure there is literature to take away on the day about the industry, the company and the project.

What about drafting in young people from your business to talk about how they are finding construction as a career?

And do ensure that visitors aren’t confined to the site huts - sounds obvious, but some sites have had such restrictions in the past.

Offering work placements is a winner - most schools struggle to find them for their students - and goody bags is a no-brainer.

Sadly, attracting young people to the sector means overcoming unfair prejudices.

Going all out to create the very best first impression by opening doors to sites has the potential to sweep these aside.

Find out more about Open Doors 2015

Construction News will be reporting from Open Doors sites around the UK. For more details on the event go to opendoorsweekend.co.uk

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