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Social change is not won by showboating

Hijacking the Olympics is not the way to get more women to join the industry, says Richard Lawrance

Since 776 BC, the Olympics has kept its place in history as the most spectacular international event celebrating potential and achievement. The impact of the Games cannot be easily overstated.

Today, the London 2012 Olympics provides the UK with some pretty impressive construction challenges of its own.

All of us in the construction industry are rightly proud to be playing such an instrumental role in this great event.

That is why I am shocked by cries from Olympics minister Tessa Jowell, who is calling for an Olympics revolution.

Ms Jowell argued recently that she hoped and believed the Olympics would be a perfect conduit for reordering women’s role in society, giving them equality in the construction industry.

In general, politicians at least try to disguise plans for social engineering. Some might say it’s a touch arrogant to think industry would let comments like this fly.

As important as the Olympics are, I don’t think any of us are under any illusion that they will bring about a ‘social transformation’ as the minister misguidedly called for.

Grabbing headlines is great for bringing attention to important issues. What a shame Ms Jowell decided to hijack such an important issue to raise her own profile.

This sort of self-serving publicity-seeking will not help the industry and it certainly will not help -women.

What the Olympics and wider society does need is a diverse workforce of hard working, highly skilled employees.

The construction industry needs skilled workers from the largest possible pool of talent available. It is only by encouraging people from all sectors of the community at home and abroad that London will be able to host an event fit for world-class competition.

The best way to encourage women to become involved in construction and engineering is through high quality education and vocational courses.

Catch them early

The fact is that we need to capture young women’s interest in engineering subjects while they are still at school.

The number of further education colleges offering bursaries to women who want to study engineering is still too low.

This position is unsustainable in the long-run if we are to truly address the very real inequalities that exist in our sector. Now is the time to address core issues such as education.

Instead of calling on the industry to transform itself, the Government needs to address the role of women in construction through the key role it plays in education and training.

The new diploma scheme being offered as an alternative to A-Level students introduced by the Government seeks to address the needs of students who need a more vocational qualification. What better place to start making a difference for women than here?

Richard Lawrance is managing director of recruitment firm Resourcing Solutions