I recently attended the Built Environment Networking event on Improving & Promoting Wellbeing & Diversity in Construction & Property where various keynote speakers covered topics such as regeneration, skills and training and innovative ways to manage mental health.

It was interesting to see how many attendees from a variety of larger contractors to smaller companies attended and participated in discussions. Here are my three main takeaways from the presentations and discussions at the event:

  1. Diversity helps us to achieve inclusive regeneration

Diversity in our industry helps to improve the outcomes of regeneration projects by making them more inclusive.

But what does ‘inclusive regeneration’ mean? According to Homes England, it’s about the transformation of people, places, social spaces and the environment, not just about buildings and infrastructure.

Inclusive regeneration means giving people a voice, and removing barriers so we make sure that more people are able to provide input into the construction process and have a say about the transformation of the places they live in.

It also means focusing on local needs such as employment and training. For example, the ongoing maintenance of properties can provide training and employment opportunities for locals.  

  1. Encouraging diversity in the workplace can help address the skills shortage

Generally, it is felt that everyone has a personal responsibility to help address the skills shortage. We also need to recognise and embrace the benefits of a more diverse workforce, which can lead to thriving businesses. 

Different people from diverse backgrounds foster further creativity and from recent reports from McKinsey, companies that are diverse are 25% more profitable than those who aren’t. Creating more diverse workforces also provides a talent pool for the future as it will attract more women.

Women represent less than 14% of the total construction workforce and only 1% work in manual trades. More than 50% of the women who train in construction don’t actually work in the industry due to lack of connections in terms of finding roles. There is also disparity between pay for men and women and globally women’s job losses due to the Covid-19 pandemic are 1.8 times greater than men’s.

The construction industry in the UK requires an additional 217,000 workers by 2025 to meet demand according to the CITB research, so surely companies need to widen their talent pool to address the skills gap in this sector.

Promoting skills, training and recruitment opportunities is important as we need to encourage more youngsters into construction. By going into local colleges and schools to speak to students who are currently training on the tools or at school choosing their options, we can ensure they make an informative decision when it comes to their career options. This is an area we can all help with so if you can offer some time to volunteer to speak to our upcoming students, please do let me know.

In addition, there is a huge pool of ethnic minorities, ex-veterans and ex-offenders who could be recruited into our industry. If you’d like to get involved in promoting construction careers, you can find out more about the FMB’s campaign to promote skills and training.  

  1. We need to talk more about mental health in construction

The construction workforce is currently suffering a mental health crisis. The suicide rate for male labourers is three times higher than the UK average and work-related stress is prevalent in many workplaces, resulting in a loss of productivity and absence from work.

It is apparent that there is still a stigma attached to mental health and we aren’t always comfortable or confident in talking about it. However, once you have had that initial chat, it can lead to you being able to help someone that really needs it. So, we all need to talk!

At the FMB, we are very aware that this is an ongoing issue that we all need to tackle together. We are raising money for The Lighthouse Club, the Construction Industry Charity, which provides free and confidential mental, physical and financial wellbeing support to those working in the industry. You can donate today.

We also have a webinar coming soon in March that has been put together by the Associate Public Health Team from Worcestershire County Council. FMB members from the Central region are welcome to sign up free of charge.

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Kiren Gill

Kiren Gill

FMB Central Director, Federation of Master Builders