Minister attacks ‘macho’ culture

The building industry faces a crisis in recruitment unless it throws off its
Auf Wiedersehn Pet image and rethinks safety, career development and equality

Construction minister Brian Wilson told delegates at the Contract Journal
conference on recruitment and retention that the sector must recruit 300,000
more qualified people by 2006 to implement the biggest-ever public sector
building programme.

But 90 per cent of construction firms are already finding it hard to recruit
engineers, graduates and craft workers such as carpenters and electricians.

To add to the problem, the number of graduates applying for building-related
courses is falling and colleges are having to close courses due to lack of

Wilson said the industry only had itself to blame for its poor image with
jobseekers and called for a culture change to overhaul the sector’s image as an
employer of last resort.

He also said the industry’s safety record was unacceptable, with a report by
the HSE showing that although deaths on site had fallen by 26 since a summit
last year, last year’s death toll was 79.

He called for an end to long hours working and a move away from casual work
and the informal economy.

Wilson said the sector had to shed its macho image to attract women and
ethnic minorities and that it should encourage more flexible working to attract
women returners.

"You look for the easiest solution first and one of the easiest
solutions is to open yourself up to the 50 per cent of the workforce you have
cut yourself off from," said Wilson.

The minister’s comments were reinforced by Sheila Hoile, director of
training strategy at sector training body, the CITB.

She said companies needed to change perceptions about the sector by
providing more positive work experience and by working more closely with
education and training providers.

By Noel O’Reilly

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