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Construction must take advantage of shift in young people's attitudes

Thirty years ago the construction industry was a very different place to what it is today.

I chose a career in construction, a decision made easy by my father who was a builder himself and an education, which focused largely on practical subjects, with very little advice from a careers department.

At 16, I was a trainee bricklayer, working to learn my trade in the traditional way. Today I find myself looking around and seeing a huge gap between the traditionally trained workforce and the next generation. I simply don’t see those who worked so hard to gain their skills handing them down.

Following the technology boom and a recession that has hit our industry hard, many of us considered whether we had made the right career choice. Suddenly the construction industry was very unappealing to many young people setting a first foot on their career path.

“How much effort and resource are we as an industry prepared to put into ensuring our future?”

Recently, however, there has been a change in the thought pattern of young people. Many are asking the question: do they want a university education, burdened with a student loan, or do they instead want to get into work now?

I’m not saying a career in the building industry is for everyone, but for those with ambition and who do not want to be bound behind a desk, our industry as a lot to offer.

Countering the naysayers

For too long I have heard it said that young people are not interested in working in construction and do not have the skills. The question I ask is how much effort and resource are we as an industry prepared to put into ensuring our future?

In 2012 we launched a programme developed not only to mentor young people but to try to inspire those individuals to move forward into a sustainable career.

Live Train was created to ensure that local people who live near where we work are given the opportunity to benefit from training, encouragement and jobs.

We are now in the midst of our second course at the Ashmole Estate in partnership with Rydon and Metropolitan. As with the first course we have discovered that not only do young people want to join our industry, but so do a lost generation of potential builders, including those who fell out of love with our industry many years ago.

It is a dynamic that really works – using local projects, client input as well as real training in a live working environment.

A sustainable future for our industry can be created by giving people the practical skills and opportunities for employment.

Mark Dixon is a director at SDP Solutions

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