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Skill Shortage - Where do the newbies go?

11/10/18
Posted by: Rob Francis

“What do you want to be when you grow up?”

It’s a time-honoured question that gets asked of you, on mass, at roughly four stages in your life.

The first time is primary school and really has very little impact, the next time you are spotty, angry and have just got your GCSE results; this is possibly the most important time, and the last two times are post A - levels / Collage and after graduating uni.

I really want to focus on that second time, the one where your future really has the opportunity to be affected the most. With so many options available at this time in your life a clear idea of what you want to do is hard to see and can often be influenced by outside forces.

Parents and teachers will always want the best for the ones they care for, but their path isn’t necessarily the right one and their experiences are rooted in a time where 300,000 new home a year would have been a ridiculous target.

So, what can we do to address the balance?

What possible solution will refocus the attention of 16- and 17-year olds surrounded by “advice”?

The answer is sex, sex sells, it’s as cliché as “what do you want to be when you grow up?” and there’s a reason for it.

Every industry that has revolutionised itself in the digital age has done so with the oldest advertising campaign known to man.

Offices with beer fridges, free snacks and onsite gyms, retailers have clothing allowances, sample sales and fashion shoots on site, and the film and television industry offer the opportunity to meet and work along side stars.

The only things these industries have in common are the ability to look better than anyone else on social media, and brag about something that you know that no one else does. The problem is that a Labourer covered in mud digging trenches isn’t as sexy an image as the suited guy with a cold beer.

What we as an industry seem to forget is that the geeky and technical can also be cool, take Japan for example, they brought us complicated fish in the form of sushi, they are home to Nintendo and Sony, delivering us some of the geekiest gaming. Japan is geek chic through and through and now they have taken that to the construction industry. Limited space and an aging population mean that new solutions have to be found. Roughly one million new homes a year are being built with around 15% of those homes prefabricated in some way. The prefabricated revolution is rearing its head again and unlike the 50’s we’ve got it right this time. Structurally Insulated Panels, triple glazed custom windows, pre-painted walls, what’s not to love? Around 80% of Japan is mountain and they are using the prefab formula to increase productivity and profit whilst working with limited space.

Currently 10,259,840 students in the UK (give or take) with an estimated 19% rise in secondary school students by 2026. If we start to build more interesting and inspiring apprenticeships now and invest in the right education of a potential labour force then we will stop concerning ourselves with the daunting number of 300,000 new homes a year, and instead concentrate on building a stronger, world class construction industry.