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Careers in construction involve ‘dirty hard work’, say 35% of teachers

More than a third of teachers and careers advisers believe construction is an unattractive career opportunity involving “dirty hard work”, new research has revealed.

A survey of more than 800 teachers and careers advisers commissioned by the CITB found that careers advice on construction is often outdated and ill-informed, with little information on the breadth of opportunities available in the industry.

On a scale of favourability, 35 per cent of respondents rated construction between one and five out of 10, with views that construction has “limited attraction, typically involving dirty hard work, but may have some appeal depending on ability and aspiration”.

The remaining 65 per cent of respondents rated construction between six and 10, regarding the industry as “attractive, involving good prospects and job security, with varied skillsets and training opportunities”.

Balfour Beatty Construction Services UK chief executive Nick Pollard said that he wants to forge closer links between education and construction, with the aim of “bringing construction to the attention of students at an early age.”

“Teachers need to be made aware of what training and careers construction has to offer their pupils in order to get our message across”

James Wates, CITB

The Educating the educators report by Pye Tait for CITB said: “The views of careers advisers and influencers about construction are most often based on their knowledge of craft and trade roles. Traditional perceptions of the industry as hard work for low pay are common.”

CITB chairman James Wates called on contractors to get more involved in careers activities in schools to inspire the next generation of construction workers and professionals.

“We build inspirational icons across the UK and the world – and we build schools, homes and hospitals in local communities,” he said.

“We need to inspire tomorrow’s talent with these achievements and I’m asking employers to be part of setting out our stall.”

Last month, the CITB’s annual Construction Skills Network report found that, on average, the industry will need to recruit 36,400 new people a year over the next five years as output continues to grow.

However, more than 60 per cent of careers advisers do not take the availability of work into consideration when giving pupils information on jobs prospects, the Educating the educators survey revealed.

Construction was regarded as a more attractive career opportunity in Scotland and the North of England than in the South of the country, despite there being more job opportunities in the industry in London and the South-east than elsewhere in the UK.

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Mr Wates said: “Our industry has to compete with many others for future talent. That means that we must be in the thoughts and choices of pupils making decisions at school – not as they’re about to leave or have already left.

“We can’t leave this to existing careers advice because we need to reach teachers in order to reach pupils.

“Teachers need to be made aware of what training and careers construction has to offer their pupils in order to get our message across.”

Mr Wates added: “I’d like to see 50 employers visit 50 schools in 2014 to do just this. That sends a powerful message about our industry and about the opportunities that exist within it.”

Changes in funding for careers services mean that teachers often have to double-up as careers advisers and cannot always do the job justice, according to the research.

Respondents said the most valuable way of improving their knowledge of construction would be by working more closely with employers in the industry.

Respondents’ comments on construction

“I do not think that a career in the construction industry is a good fit for the children I advise” – teacher in the South of England.

“Generally the construction industry tends to be attractive to those students who enjoy more practical and less academic tasks” – college in North of England.

“I teach entirely boys and the construction industry provides some active roles and some good career prospects. But the economic downturn has made parents and pupils more nervous, although we actively promote it to prevent a skills shortage in future years” – secondary school in Scotland.


Educating the educators highlighted that skilled people will be needed to deliver the UK’s nuclear renewal programme, including new nuclear power stations at Hinkley in Somerset and Wylfa in Anglesey.

New nuclear work will provide the single largest regional recruitment impetus in the UK, with an estimated 6,370 new jobs to be created annually over five years in the South-west, where work on the £16bn Hinkley Point C power station is due to begin in mid-2014, the CSN report found.

EDF energy head of partnerships Jennie Chapman said the firm was already working with schools in the South-west to inspire children and young people about the jobs available on the project.

Ms Chapman said: “We have reached out to 35,000 school students around Somerset through a variety of exciting activities in our ‘Inspire’ education programme as well as tailoring specific events to appeal to female students.

“The results have been very encouraging, with many examples of students thinking again – or for the first time – about a career in construction, engineering or science,” she added.

The research was conducted by Pye Tait Consulting on behalf of the CITB during July and August 2013.

It surveyed careers influencers, including teachers, school careers advisers and coaches, independent advisers, local authorities and job centres in England, Scotland and Wales.

Readers' comments (2)

  • hamondprojects

    Construction is a key industry and contains many disciplines, contractors to get more involved in careers activities in schools to inspire the next generation of construction workers and professionals.
    This is vital and action needs to take place immediatly.

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  • Clearly we have much work to do highlighting the range of opportunities available to young people in the construction industry. Sad that the imact of the recent extreme weather, and significant projcts such as HS2, still havent triggered the awareness of the vital role construction plays in enhancing a civilised society amongst the teaching community. We must all continue to spread the word and attract the talent we need to maintain and enhance the infrastructure that is vital to our society.

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