Housebuilders must do more to sell the industry’s opportunities to young people as it faces a “crying need to recruit” workers.
The North West managing director of Bellway Homes spoke out about the construction sector’s needs to engage more with schools during a panel discussion in Knowsley yesterday (3 May).
David Williams appeared alongside Christine Gilbert, the former head of Ofsted and chair of Knowsley’s Education Commission; Stuart Lord, operations director at Jaguar Land Rover; Lynsey Merryweather, HR manager of Knowsley-based Clarke Energy; and Michelle Dow, managing director of All About STEM for the ‘Workforce of the Future’ event at Knowsley Community College.
During the debate, hosted by Knowsley Ambassadors and chaired by Carmel Booth – a member of Knowsley Place Board and chief executive of Atlantic Gateway – David said the housebuilding industry as a whole is facing a “potential time bomb” when it comes to labour.
Although suggesting London housebuilders’ workforces are expected to be affected more than those in the North West by the impact of Brexit, David said the construction sector is still replenishing its skilled teams following the 2008 economic downturn.
He said: “In the 2008 downturn we lost a lot of good people and now we’ve got this crying need to recruit people.
“All construction companies have a mission to recruit apprentices. We have not sold ourselves to schools very well, we’re not seen as glamorous but [the industry] is actually very well paid and it isn’t just site based.
“There are lots of jobs in the office too – not just bricklayers and joiners. We’ve also been very poor at taking girls on but we’re trying to be better at doing that.
“We’ve got to sell ourselves to everybody – teachers as well”.
The event, which was attended by representatives of Knowsley’s businesses and education sector, saw panelists discuss a need for the working world to be more integrated into education to enable young people to be more aware of the opportunities available to them.
Suggestions highlighted during the event included stronger links between businesses and primary schools to raise aspirations among parents and children, a greater business presence on school governing bodies, and companies working more with the education sector to raise awareness of industry needs.
David also emphasised the value of schoolchildren’s Year 10 placements in highlighting talented potential future employees to firms such as housing developers.