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May 05, 2022

Finding Better Ways to Build a Sustainable Future

In this article, we discuss with Clare Munster, Head of HR Delivery, and Jill Jenkins, Early Careers Manager, why they care about developing a work environment that drives equality, diversity and inclusion, to close the skills gap and attract the next generation of talent to the sector.

Of all the operationally-intensive sectors, construction is arguably one that’s experiencing the most significant paradigm shift: tackling ongoing pressure to fill the knowledge gaps and skills shortages left by a retiring workforce, whilst adapting to new technologies.

Finding better ways to build a sustainable future Image 1

For the first time in the UK, there are more people of pensionable age than children under 16, according to CIOB research[1]. This presents significant challenges to the construction sector, which employs over nine per cent of the UK’s total workforce (more than 3.1 million). Within the sector, the total number of workers over the age of 60 has increased more than any age group; and the biggest reduction is in workers under 25 who represent just 10 per cent of the sector’s workforce[2].

Future-proofing skills and knowledge

Right people, right place, right time.

“It is widely recognised that there is a skills shortage within the UK construction industry right now, and we’re working hard to fill the gaps”, says Jill. “We’re continuing with the upskilling and training of existing and new employees, and are looking to attract underrepresented groups - as well as those who are long-term unemployed - into the business.”

“We believe that our most important asset is our people, which is why we need to ensure that we have the right people, in the right place, at the right time.”

“Timing is everything,” emphasises Clare. “Finding the right skills and right people is crucial; yet getting the timing right to recognise skills shortages before they happen is equally important.”

Jill agrees that one of the areas Severfield is focusing on is building “agile talent pipelines” and “regularly conducting gap analyses, to forecast what skills may be needed in say one, two, or five years’ time. From our data, we know that if we don’t act now, we will have a skills shortage, so we’re making the commitment to recruit now, to ensure that we’ve got a talent pool of trained specialists at varying levels throughout the organisation.”

Changing perceptions

For companies like Severfield, Jill says, it’s crucial to build closer relationships with the local community and schools, ensuring young people are aware of, and exposed to, the skills required for the future. “It’s about capturing their imagination and helping them to achieve their career aspirations. The workforce of the future is there, but we need to make working in construction, and with steel, more desirable to the next generation.”

“We have a real opportunity to make a difference in a world of changing demands”

“Organisations like ours can play a big role in changing perceptions of working in the sector,” adds Clare. “It is incumbent on us to create a positive working environment in which our colleagues are aware of what they can achieve, what support is available to help them, and what their future with us could look like. We have a real opportunity to make a difference in a world of changing demands.”

Equality, Diversity & Inclusion

Equality, diversity and inclusion (EDI) is key to the success of any forward-looking organisation, says Clare. “During 2022, we’re in the process of collecting voluntary colleague diversity data to better understand our workforce and work towards becoming a fully inclusive employer.”

“Indeed, when it comes to attracting and retaining the next generation of talent, we need to demonstrate that our workforce reflects the communities in which we operate,” agrees Jill.

The CIOB’s Special Report on EDI in construction states “an organisation with a workforce that reflects the population at large, with its diversity of experience and perspective, will be better placed to respond to the needs of client organisations who are similarly diverse”. [3]

Final thoughts

“To really engage the next generation, EDI needs to be something that’s practised authentically and is embedded within our culture,” emphasises Clare, adding that “with a visionary approach to EDI, we will maintain the competitive advantage in the marketplace through innovation and collaborative smart working with our clients”.


[1] CIOB Research Paper: “The Impact of the ageing workforce on the construction industry” [Source]

[2] Policy paper “Construction Sector Deal “ Updated 22 July 2019 [Source]

[3] CIOB “Our Charter on Diversity & Inclusion” [Source]

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