Covid-prompted change in attitude amongst youngsters to construction presents ‘prime opportunity’


THE use of social media to positively promote careers and apprenticeships in construction to teachers and parents could help ensure more youngsters join the industry, a report has said.

It comes as part of three ‘key’ recommendations made by housebuilder, Redrow, in its annual apprenticeship report, which also encouraged the restructuring of the apprenticeship levy and establishment of a fair apprenticeship wage.

The recommendations come on the back of encouraging findings, which show ‘clear progress’ in terms of the number of young people considering construction apprenticeships as a viable pathway, as well as the same demographic perceptions of what a career in construction can offer also improving.

Just 35% of young people now believe construction is a career centred around manual labour, compared to the 59% who believed this in 2019. 27% of parents said, on the back of the pandemic, they are now more likely to encourage their child to enter an apprenticeship – with 72% having discussed the prospect of an apprenticeship with their child.

Furthermore, 4 in 10 females said they had discussed construction opportunities at school with career advisors, a small rise from the 3 in 10 the previous year. Redrow findings revealed that parents (31%) and teachers (29%) are the most influential in terms of shaping career choices.

However, the firm warned that schools are still ‘missing the mark’ when it comes to talking to youngsters about their next steps post-exams. Redrow revealed 65% of its own apprentices indicated they didn’t receive enough careers advice at school to help find a fulfilling career path.

Upon being asked what they thought was available to them following an apprenticeship, 41% of young people said staying employed followed by 39% recognising the potential to train for an advanced, higher or degree apprenticeship.

The findings have prompted the housebuilder to recommend the use of social media to positively promote the benefits of an apprenticeship to both teachers and parents. This would build on a changing attitude to apprenticeships and the sector on the back of the pandemic, with 31% of youngsters now believing that apprentices have greater opportunities for career progression and promotion at an earlier age than graduates – a massive leap from the 18% recorded pre-pandemic.

Furthermore, 39% believed that a traditional degree was valued more highly than an apprenticeship pre-pandemic (2018). This has dropped to just 21% in Redrow’s latest findings.

The firm said that, as we move beyond the pandemic, a ‘prime opportunity’ is presented to reinforce the benefits of both apprenticeships and careers in construction – with 49% saying Covid has changed what is important to them in terms of a career, with a further 48% saying a career in construction could offer what they wanted from a profession.

This is based on the same set of respondents indicating that what they value most from a career is finding the work interesting (34%), job security (28%), and the potential to achieve a higher-than-average income (22%). More than a third (37%) of parents said that they think an apprenticeship will meet their child’s career aspirations.

Karen Jones, HR director at Redrow, commented, “As an industry we need to do everything we can to attract new talent. Central to the challenge of getting young people to undertake an apprenticeship are the misconceptions around what they can offer. These challenges resonate across construction and housebuilding, manifesting in a misunderstanding about what a career in construction entails and what that looks like beyond an apprenticeship.

“By interrogating these misconceptions, it is clear there are fundamental barriers in place hampering entry-level recruitment into the construction and housebuilding sector. In an industry particularly challenged by gendered preconceptions, this year we’re pleased to have seen more young women say that they’d consider a career in construction to be a viable prospect for them. Indeed, the number of young people who perceive the sector to be heavily dominated by men has fallen substantially year-on-year (40% in 2022 vs 54% in 2017), indicating a steady improvement in how the industry is viewed.

“However, there is still opportunity for further progress. Roughly a third of parents still see a career in construction as involving manual labour and a requirement to predominately be on a building site – virtually unchanged from when we first asked the question in 2017. With young people, we can see the impact of the pandemic disrupting time in the classroom, with 54% saying they’d had information on apprenticeships outlined to them at school, the lowest response seen since 2017. Covid disruption aside, with parents and teachers once again shown as being the greatest influencers in a young person’s career choices, this can still feel like a fairly damning step backwards.”