The debate surrounding grammar schools has dominated headlines and split the nation, and it is no different in the construction sector.
If Theresa May lifts the ban on grammar schools and allows new ones to be opened, our education system could see the reintroduction of the eleven-plus, a test that decides whether primary school leavers are to attend a grammar schools or a comprehensive.
While lifting the ban may affect other industries, the number of varied roles in the construction industry – whether labour-intensive jobs, or academically-trained professionals – means that it needn’t have a direct impact on us.
This being said, I was surprised to read a recent article from National Federation of Builders chief executive Richard Beresford, who expressed a belief that grammar schools would add to our industry’s already growing skills gap due to their bias towards university education.
While the article raised some interesting points about our sector, such as how there are over 2,000 different jobs available in the industry, the Mr Beresford argued that the best route to enter construction – which would guarantee a decent salary – would be through an apprenticeship, rather than a university degree.
Although it may be true in some cases, as apprenticeships in the construction industry can most definitely provide excellent career prospects, it is a dangerous approach to take.
As pointed out by Mr Beresford, we have a high number of varied roles in our industry, which should highlight that our sector is diverse enough for all, including graduates.
While there are many career paths for apprentices in our industry, there are a number of roles where a degree is essential.
By implying that our industry consists only of hands-on, contracting-type roles, we are selling ourselves immensely short, as well as isolating those who are looking to or currently undertaking a construction-related university degree.
“Whether apprentices or graduates, from grammar or comprehensive schools, there is a role for everyone in construction”
Unlike other professions where a university degree is almost always essential to secure a highly regarded career, we are lucky enough to work in a sector where students of all backgrounds, whether apprentices or university graduates, can quickly work their way through the ranks, which is something we should be celebrating.
As supporters of Construction United, an initiative that aims to change the negative perceptions of our industry, the Construction Industry Council believes we need to avoid implying that construction consists only of labour-intensive roles if we are serious about improving our image problem.
Ultimately, both the NFB and the CIC want to reduce the skills gap, which is why we believe we should all work together to celebrate our diverse sector.
Whether apprentices or graduates, from grammar or comprehensive schools, there is a role for everyone in construction.
Professor John Nolan is chairman of the Construction Industry Council, supporters of Construction United