Opinion: Mentorship for Construction Careers
The image of construction and how the industry presents itself is a key reason why more young people do not choose to join our industry. If we spend time talking about dirty and muddy projects, then all we will do is reinforce the stereotypes that exist.
Yet we have such an amazing story to tell. We build everything around us, from the schools we learn to the hospitals we were born in and the homes we live in. How many other industries leave such a legacy, and how many other industries have such a diverse set of roles and working environments?
Engagement must begin at a young age. Children start to rule career options in or out at an early age, and evidence shows that girls and boys hold stereotypical views about male and female careers by the age of seven. Certainly, we need to be engaging with students, so that they understand the benefits of choosing a career in construction.
And the impact of such engagement is huge. Research shows that students who have four or more contacts with employers while they are at school are 25% less likely to become NEET (not in education, employment and training) and can expect when in full-time employment, to earn more than peers who had no such exposure. This demonstrates the direct impact that we can have on the lives of young people.
Members of the industry can have an inspiring construction campaign, to give the information, tools and advice to help students take their first step into the industry. Whether through graduate programs or apprenticeships or in any other form.
Technological and workplace change means young people face much more choices when deciding on their future careers. If we are to achieve our aim of getting a more diverse set of talented people enthusiastic about the prospect of a career in construction, then we must be bold and ambitious. Instead of talking about an image problem, let’s do something to show people how they can get involved and the variety of opportunities construction has to offer.
This industry is full of people who are passionate about construction, who enjoy thriving careers in a whole range of roles, utilizing a broad variety of different skills. There are myriad success stories throughout our sector at every level.
Research and experience suggest that the impact of careers events is amplified when the person providing information to pupils about jobs and careers can draw on personal, first-hand experience of those professions.
Wouldn’t it be great also if at the peak and also in the twilight of our careers, to teach our youngsters how things should be done, passing down their knowledge to the next generation? We need to inspire the next generation with something we all know: that construction is a career like no other. We need to draw from everybody in the sector – from tier-one contractors to clients and all the way through the supply chain – to tell a powerful story to students about our sector.
So, we are calling on everyone in the industry to step up and share their pride at saying: “I built that, I love what I do, and this industry is open to everyone who wants to build the world we live in.”
This article was authored by Faith Tangara. She is currently pursuing a Bachelors degree in Quantity Surveying at the University of Nairobi.