Housebuilders must do more on diversity to avoid a workforce crisis

Housebuilders need to do more to attract women and young people if the industry is to avoid a “workforce crisis”, according to new research from the NHBC Foundation. The report, entitled ‘The gender and age profile of the housebuilding sector’, warns of a significant shortfall in workers caused by an over-reliance on an ageing, male dominated workforce, not forgetting the potential restrictions to migrant labour following Brexit. With estimates showing that the sector needs to recruit 700,000 more people to replace those retiring or moving on, plus an extra 120,000 if the Government’s aim to build one million new homes by 2020 is to be achieved, the NHBC Foundation has called on Government and housebuilders to recognise the seriousness of the problem, urging them to act now to address the shortfall.

Based on data from the Office For National Statistics’ Labour Force Survey, and detailed interviews with housebuilding companies and sector industry commentators, the report provides insights into age and gender diversity within the housebuilding sector. The report revealed that just 12 per cent of the UK’s housebuilding workforce is female, with the majority working in secretarial or administration jobs, less than 4 per cent having a skilled trade role. It also found that young people, especially girls, are put off working in the industry, because of the negative, stereotypical image of a

male-dominated housebuilding industry. One of the main findings of the report is that women are still seriously under-represented in skilled, technical and managerial roles in housebuilding. It identifies a number of challenges that need to be tackled by the sector, and the broader construction industry, that are deep-rooted and endemic, such as ongoing stereotyping and antiquated recruitment practices. Uniformed and outdated careers advice in schools is also failing to make all young people aware of the variety of jobs and roles on offer, with advisers “unable to effectively promote the many attractive career opportunities in the sector. Chi Onwurah MP said it’s “hugely encouraging” to see NHBC recognise that diversity isn’t an “optional add-on, but a key measure of success in the modern world.” She commented: “Having worked as an electrical engineer for two decades, I know the importance of achieving greater diversity in male-dominated professions. “Like NHBC, I believe more can be done to promote opportunities for women


• Working Conditions – The belief that all work in the industry takes place outdoors in all weathers

• Fears of a sexist environment – concerns about the language and behaviour of male workers on site

• Poor hiring and recruitment practices – over-reliance on gender-biased recruitment literature and advertising, and an over-use of personal contacts and networks to recruit workers

• Skills shortages – cycles of recession and growth mean that many skilled workers leave the industry during downturns, which has a knock-on effect of reducing the talent pool

• Outsourcing of site staff – a large proportion of on-site trade roles are managed by sub-contractors, and therefore housebuilding companies themselves have little say on who is actually working on site

in the housebuilding sector, and inspire the sector’s next generation of female leaders.” Zara Fairman is Redrow Homes’ site manager and 2016 NHBC Pride in the Job Seal of Excellence winner. She commented on her experiences as a woman working in the housebuilding industry: “It’s a real privilege to be able to show that it’s not just a man’s world, and that women can do well in the housebuilding industry. “It’s also important to know that you

don’t necessarily have to be from a trade or engineering background – there are lots of transferable skills needed for this job.”

Commission formed to tackle build quality issues

The Chartered Institute of Building (CIOB) has announced the formation of a Commission of Past Presidents. In light of the report into the defects that led to the closure of 17 schools in Edinburgh earlier this year and subsequent events, the Commission will investigate the issue of build quality in the construction industry, and what needs to be done to address it.

The formation will consider what steps the CIOB needs to take to address the already identified issues around management and supervision, the importance of the education framework, and whether there are further steps the industry can take to contribute to improving build quality. Chair of the Commission, CIOB past president Paul Nash, said the tragic events at Grenfell Tower “further underlined the need for an urgent review of the way in which quality is managed in our industry.” He continued: “While aspects of the public inquiry must necessarily focus on the issues of regulation and inspection, I think we have to look beyond this, at the behaviours that have led to a lack of focus on quality at all stages of the build process, from design and procurement through to construction and re-fit. “As professionals, we have a duty to the industry and wider society to act responsibly and ethically. This defines what it means to be a professional. And we all have a responsibility for the reputation of our industry and, most importantly, the wellbeing of those who use the buildings that we create.”


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