August Overview – Jamie Harwood

Aug 1, 2023

This is my first year of involvement in the CESW Bath committee, and it’s been a pleasure to reflect on the social events we’ve held, the highlight of which being host to the Leadership Dinner, which brought together influential figures from our industry. I look forward with anticipation to events in the upcoming year, where we aim to strike the balance between networking opportunities and informative events.

One of the most prevalent topics from the leadership dinner was the future of our industry. There is real concern that addressing the chronic skills shortage is now a critical challenge that must be addressed in order for our industry to flourish for future generations This remains a complex task.  Essential to this, is recruiting for both current and future roles, which requires a collaborative approach. We need to provide opportunities that inspire people of all ages to explore or return to a career in construction.

I have spent my working life in this industry, and firmly believe that the Built Environment and career paths it offers, have a profound impact on people’s lives in numerous ways:

  • Leaving a legacy of beautiful places
  • Provides spaces for people to live, work, and play.
  • Poses challenges that foster growth and problem-solving abilities.
  • Promotes the development of skills and teamwork.
  • Creates opportunities for lasting friendships.

How can we collectively do this?

It is essential that we change the perception of our industry and promote construction as a career of choice that is diverse, professional, interesting, exciting, rewarding, and secure. We must demonstrate that construction is an excellent option for young people. Contrary to the popular belief of the young, our industry is not solely about hard hats and outdoor work in unfavourable conditions.

There is a stigma that construction is not a good career option, and only for those who are not academic. We must double our efforts to educate all students from a young age that a career in construction is high up the list of choices. There is a perception that higher education offers a route to a better paid career, which isn’t always the case compared to what the bult environment can offer.

The demand for skilled professionals is high, particularly with an aging workforce where we risk losing valuable skills if we do not take seriously the replacement of key trades. Therefore, both quantity and quality of skilled people are crucial. Equally important is the retention of people and the mentoring of staff that have already chosen construction, and then sharing the knowledge and experience that already exists.

Construction offers a wide range of opportunities from dumper drivers to designers or bricklayer to building services engineer, and we must ensure that young people understand this diversity and opportunity. Construction is a great industry which allows individuals to progress from apprenticeships to senior positions provided they have the drive and ambition to embark on that journey. The industry requires individuals with diverse expertise and aptitude to thrive and grow. Year-long industry placements, work experience, and graduate apprenticeship schemes are indispensable for cultivating new talent. Additionally, fostering relationships with local schools and colleges is crucial to raise awareness about the rewarding career opportunities in construction.

Recently, I had the opportunity to engage with Reading College, and I was impressed to see their course focus, not only knowledge and technical skills, but also on behavioural aspects. I have also met with Bath College who take a similar approach but requires employers and other key players in our industry to aid the process for the challenge to fulfil all the requirements for our industry to thrive. Soft skills, particularly good communication, are essential, yet not all young people appreciate or feel comfortable embracing them. Nurturing these skills is crucial for the future workforce in the construction industry.

So, this is a plea for us all to shout from the rooftops why our industry should be top choice as a profession. We must increase the noise, as if we don’t, we will struggle to continue to build beautiful buildings to the best quality, within the ever-demanding time constraints we face. And let’s ‘not forget we are traditionally a male dominated industry. If we encourage more women into construction across all roles, we will dramatically reduce the skills shortage.

Finally, I must comment on the recent CESW awards held at the Aerospace Museum. What an amazing night, extremely well organised. There was the right balance of awards and speakers in a warm, friendly environment. Congratulations to all the award winners.  Equally all the nominees should be proud of the fact they have been recognised by the industry.  The speakers did an amazing job, especially Meg from BillyChip who delivered an inspiring talk, even when good old technology failed. The sponsors and partners who made this happen should be very proud.

I’m sure you all had an enjoyable night, and we all look forward to next year.

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