In our role as Enterprise Advisers for Liverpool City Region Grace Roberts and Matt Breakwell have been working with Prenton High School for Girls to dispel some of the myths about working in construction, and in Grace’s case, talk candidly about her life in engineering, as a young female apprentice.
In our company CSR strategy, launched in 2020, we identified that we work in a traditionally male-dominated industry and, rather than just accept this, we would take positive action with the aim to diversify our workforce by encouraging more women to consider a career in building services engineering.
Yesterday saw the next step in this process when we visited Prenton High School for Girls again, to talk to a group of 15 Year 10/11’s and answer questions about working within the industry.
“Every young person needs high-quality career guidance to make informed decisions about their future. Good career guidance is a necessity for social mobility: those young people without significant social capital or home support to draw upon have the most to gain from high-quality career guidance.”
And this is exactly the aims of these regular, termly school talks to help guide, inspire and support young people in thinking about their own individual futures.
Most young people don’t have a clear picture of what they want to do for their careers. Many follow in the footsteps of their parents, take opportunities offered by family friends or just follow peers they have grown up with. This has led to polarisation in the labour markets and created marked skills shortages in some of the fastest-growing areas of demand, including our own industry – construction and engineering.
Baz Luhrmann, in 1997, released his famous, seven-minute’ advice for life song’ – Everybody’s Free To Wear Sunscreen and summed this lack of direction up perfectly when he said
“Don’t feel guilty if you don’t know what you want to do with your life The most interesting people I know Didn’t know at 22 what they wanted to do with their lives Some of the most interesting 40-year-olds I know still don’t”
We’re working with schools to improve this career direction with real-life stories, honest insights and to help make the construction and engineering sectors something more young women consider as a career. We’re looking to attract some of the very brightest students to consider joining the industry when they leave school, which we believe, can offer long term, well paid, stable careers.
It’s no secret that the construction and engineering sectors have been male-dominated for many years, but we’re finally seeing a swing towards women entering the sector. They are being drawn in by attractive salaries, great, flexible career opportunities and roles that can allow you to grow, develop and progress.
What did they ask us?
The questions from the students (mainly to Grace) were all quite direct and logical to get a clearer picture:
What made you want to pursue this career?
Do you still have any career goals/ aspirations?
How did you find working in a male-dominated industry?
How closely do you work together?
Did you have any doubts, concerns or reservations when applying for your roles/ courses?
Describe your career path
What has been the key to your success?
Have you experienced any failure? How did you handle?
What interpersonal skills/ life skills best prepared you for your roles?
What can I do now to best prepare myself for later life?
If you could give your teenage self some advice, what would it be and why?
When the formal question and answer session was over, we moved onto the subject of industry salaries and this is where some key messages really hit home. One of the students was looking at a part-time job offering £4.62 an hour. This equates to around £9k per year if it was a full-time role. The average UK salary is £25,971 (Jan 2022 figures) or around £12.50 per hour and many in construction, both on-site and in senior roles in construction can comfortably earn £25 per hour or £50-60k per year.
What the industry needs
Construction needs skilled people from all sections of society. It needs young intelligent people to lead the thinking and fill some of the high skill roles that are being created. The move to worldwide decarbonisation will place tremendous pressure on the industry and many of the traditional construction workers are reaching retirement age.
At Kimpton, we’re passionate about training, staff retention and upskilling our workforce. It’s one of the reasons our staff retention figures are so incredibly high and many of our senior team, started their working life as 16-year-old apprentices, with no clear idea of where their careers would take them.
There’s an incredible variety of roles within the industry and it’s no exaggeration to say that every day is different, when you’re working in construction. There are new challenges, new technologies and new ways of working. So for us, we need a new way of recruiting too. Getting out into schools. Talking to young people and being open and honest about life in construction may change the direction of travel for a few, and bring construction firmly onto their radar.
If we achieve that, and Grace inspires just one new entrant to the industry who may not have considered it before, our time working in schools has been worth every second.