Your browser is no longer supported

For the best possible experience using our website we recommend you upgrade to the newest version of your browser.

Your browser appears to have cookies disabled. For the best experience of Construction News, please enable cookies in your browser.

Welcome to the Construction News site. As we have relaunched, you will have to sign in once now and agree for us to use cookies, so you won't need to log in each time you visit our site.
Learn more

Change the Face of Construction

Is the skills shortage affecting you? Are you losing good people to your competitors - or perhaps to a different industry altogether? The need has never been greater for construction to change its culture in order to recruit and retain more of the right people.

This was recently highlighted by construction minister Beverley Hughes, who commented: 'The industry needs to be able to retain and recruit from the widest possible range of human resources and talent - including women andethnic minorities.'

The industry's response was a new campaign, called Change the Face of Construction, aiming to encourage a broader cross-section of the population into the industry.

In this Briefing, we explain what Change the Face of Construction is, and what it plans to do.

What is the Change the Face of Construction campaign?

Change the Face of Construction is the first industry-wide project to help and support companies and individuals in construction to encourage greater diversity in the workforce.

It is a practical programme to help improve day-to-day working conditions, develop effective career paths and support the concept of 'respect for people'.

Change the Face of Construction will also aim to provide a voice for the people who enjoy working in the industry, and generally raising the image of construction. A key task is toidentify and promote innovative organisations, as well as individuals, to present a more diverse, representative and human face of the industry.

About the author

Sandi Rhys Jones, a former Construction News journalist, is one of the originators of Change the Face of Construction.

She runs a marketing consultancy specialising in the construction and engineering industry and is a non-executive director of Docklands Light Railway.

She is also Chair of Trustees of Women's Education in Building, Europe's largest women's training centre in building crafts and trades.

Sandi chaired CIB Working Group 8 on equal opportunities in construction.

Back issues

For back issuesfeaturing Briefings, call 0171 505 6622.

To subscribe, and receive all the Briefings plus the latest news,call 01858 435306.

Who is running it?

The project is jointly funded and managed by the Construction Industry Board (CIB) and the Construction Industry Training Board (CITB) with a steering group of representatives from the CIB umbrella bodies representing the construction industry, its clients and government.

Change the face of construction was devised and will be delivered by Sandi Rhys Jones and Helen Stone.

Sandi, a marketing consultant specialising in construction, chaired CIB Working Group 8 on equal opportunities in construction. She was awarded an OBE in 1998 for promoting women in construction.

Helen is a civil engineer and independent management consultant and chairs the CIC Equal Opportunities Task Force. She also has an OBE, for promoting equal opportunities.

Each has 30 years' experience in the industry.

How will it work?

Change the Face of Construction has two main strands:

A network for exchange of information, good practice and business case examples through a central information unit using a website, database of speakers and public relations.

Pilot projects within organisations to develop a toolkit to help individual firms to introduce good practice.

Companies are now being sought to take part in the first programme of activities, including:

Mentoring A pilot programme is being developed to draw on current best practice in order to identify training and methodology.

Roadshows Women and men from a range of cultures, disciplines and backgrounds will talk about their working lives to young people at schools and universities in order to promote construction as an exciting, non-traditional career option. The intention is to develop both a live roadshow and a virtual version.

Improving house building Practical ways of increasing the number of women and other under-represented groups in house-building and maintenance, in collaboration with housebuilders, housing associations and the Housing Forum.

Training workshops In collaboration with the business organisations Opportunity Now and Race for Opportunity, these will address such topics as communications, workplace culture, equal opportunities policy, career development.

Directory of speakers This is being developed in collaboration with individual organisations and companies.

Whose face fits?

'Ethnic minorities in the UK will spend £40 billion a year - many companies are losing business because they do not have a good understanding of the cultural differences of their customers' - National Institute of Economic and Social Research (quoted in The Independent, March 7, 2000)

Construction has the lowest percentage of women and black and minority ethnic people that any other UK industry. Its demographic make-up currently comprises:

90 per cent of people working in construction are men

Only 3.4 per cent of construction professionals are women

Women make up only 1.1 per cent of the craft and trades

Only 1.9 per cent of people in the industry are from a minority ethnic background

In today's world, white males are not the only successful business people; women are often the decision makers; women are often the customer. Construction needs to relate better to this changing world.

Why increase diversity?

Change the Face believes that those organisations supporting the development of specific programmes within the initiative will be seen as innovative leaders in the drive for a more diverse and exciting industry. But there are more long-lasting benefits for individualcompanies which should be able to:

Recruit and retain the best staff available

Acquire diverse knowledge, skills and attributes

Achieve better efficiency, lower staff turnoverand lower absenteeism

Improve teamwork, creativity, quality

Improve customer care

Open up new business opportunities

Improve image and build brand

Case study: making it work

Civil engineer Louise Williamson was appointed a main board director of contractor Birse in 1998 following a two-year training programme aimed specifically at identifying and promoting female staff into senior positions.

Until 1996 Birse was perceived as a commercially aggressive firm which had poor relations with its staff. Staff turnover was high. In 1996, senior management decided that the company culture had to change. Feedback from staff consultation revealed female staff were undervalued.

Thirty-four women enrolled on the development programme, which involved training in management and leadership and projects aimed at adding value. Nine went on to the second phase, which included taking on more senior jobs and shadowing board members.

At end of phase two, the nine women chose Louise Williamson as the most suitable candidate for the post of director. For Louise, the remarkable thing about the programme was that all the women were able to put their personal aspirations aside and consider who would be best for the company:

'My presence on the board is not a token gesture. I have worked my way up through the ranks, starting as a junior engineer with McAlpine before becoming Birse's South West regional manager. As director, I will have overall responsibility for projects in the South-West as well as heading up Birse's programme to improveefficiency in line with the Egan recommendations.'

Changing work environment

There is considerable legislation in place designed to combat discrimination on grounds of gender, race and disability. Further legislation is due on ageism. New regulations regarding parental leave and other workplace issues are also coming on stream, so apart from the moral and social issues, diversity and equality are matters of economic, business and legal necessity.

Take heed of the increasing number of industrial tribunals, which are costing companies dear and make sure that legal responsibilities are understood. Set up effective systems to ensure that the right staff are well managed and the wrong staff are dealt with appropriately.

'The changes needed to encourage more women and other under-represented groups into construction are also the changes necessary to improve many of the fundamental cultural issues of the industry.' - Tomorrow's team: women and men in construction (report of the CIB Working Group 8 on Equal Opportunities).

Among the statistic that indicate an urgent need to change:

93 per cent of employees say bullying goes on in their companies

80 per cent of companies offer no training in dealing with bullying

There were 86 deaths and 4,672 injuries in construction in 1997/8

40 per cent of HSE enforcement in 1998 was construction-related

Each year 700 construction workers die of asbestos-related illnesses

Work-related accident and illness represents between 5 and 10 per cent of all UK industrial and commercial gross trading profits.

What are Briefings?

Briefings are regular features which provide a concise guide to some of the most pressing current issues to affect your business or job. Comments and suggestions for future Briefings topics are welcome. Please contact Kristina Smith, features editor. Tel: 0171 505 6848 or e-mail: kristinas@construct.emap. co. uk