Ask a school pupil about people that work in housing; “What do they look like? What do they do?”
What image will they strike up?
In 2019, the immediate perception of construction related industries is still men working in the cold or rain, getting dirty. The multi-faceted options outside trades’ positions remain off grid. While we know that housing isn’t Hollywood glamour, the image of the sector needs updated – and fast- with an aging workforce, and few hoping to join our ranks.
Alongside an aging workforce, skills shortages are reaching critical levels, with three quarters of firms struggling to meet requirements according to a report last year from the British Chambers of Commerce. The proportion reporting a lack of skilled workers – and particularly trained professionals such as quantity surveyors – is at the highest level since 2007.
So what are we doing about it?
At BCUK, we see this industry crisis in at least three solvable parts; initial interest, apprenticeship options, and ability to progress. In other words: attracting young people, helping them join, incentivising them to stay.
1. Initial Interest
Many industries start connecting with young people in school before they make important subject choices that start to dictate their careers. Tech and financial industries wow kids with their products and their progression. We need to match this pace in the housing, and promote a fascinating industry that has progression, earning potential and that changes lives.
Building Careers UK Director Debbie King said; “the industry is far more diverse than young people realise, and it’s up to us to change this perception by reaching out to schools and colleges, creating links with young people. Companies could offer work experience programmes for school leavers, open days for students and widen apprenticeship options across the board.”
2. Apprenticeship Options
In April 2017, new rules designed to boost apprenticeships were brought in. The housing sector seemed positive and committed to change. Almost two years on, and results are disappointing, in ethnicity and in gender reports. In 2018, figures showed women still taking up less than a third of apprentices taken on in the housing sector, while white apprentices still make up over 85% of the balance.
Variety in roles is dominated by trades apprenticeships, and still appear assigned along traditional gender lines, with males in predominantly trades positions, and females in care and administration teams.
Kirklees Neighbourhood Housing (KNH) Director of Property Heidi Thompson said, “We need to showcase and publicise some of the amazing women and BME apprentices that work within the sector to attract other, particularly in roles that challenge stereotypes and perceptions.
“Apprentice recruitment campaigns should celebrate and recognise this diversity and positively recruit women and other BME apprentices into the sector.”
3. Progression in the Industry
Just 2 in 5 apprenticeships over the last 5 years have been offered a permanent position with the organisation that trained them. While unemployment statistics are much more positive (only 4.5% apprentices are unemployed 6 months after their apprenticeship ends), organisations need to step up and improve these figures, proving that an apprenticeship is truly the foundation of a long career, with earning potential and progression.
If we are going to improve the image of the sector and protect it from skills shortages, we must act now to improve candidates coming in, follow through by giving them reason to build their career in housing- and most importantly, act together as an industry to embed these changes in our organisations for the long term.
Building Careers UK’s experts have been engaged in the frontline of housing sector recruitment for the best part of two decades. We stay up to date with industry trends and encourage our clients to be proactive in their business and people strategies. For ideas on how to diversify your applicants and build strong career paths for your staff, contact our social housing team on 0151 230 1690.