Shifting Priorities

Before the pandemic, improving diversity in the sector was at the top of the agenda. However, five months later, is this still the case? What areas of businesses have been impacted, and are those heading up diversity in the business now furloughed?

A recent research report conduced by Hays with more than 1000 respondents across the industry found that:

  • 71% of Black or Black British respondents felt their chances of career progression were limited because they possess a protected characteristic.
  • More than one-third of respondents with a disability and just under one-third of Black people felt that they were discouraged from entering the industry.
  • Only 46% of females said they believed there were equal opportunities for the genders, compared with 67% of males.
  • 63% of people with a disability do not feel secure within their job.

From this, we can see that there is a vast need for improvement. Only 35% of employees trust their senior leaders to bring about change across the D&I agenda within the industry. Improvement is needed not just for initial application and attraction, but across the whole candidate journey, right through to day one.

Roundtable discussions

Our Engineering and Construction roundtable discussed what can be done to implement real change within the industry.

Terry Watts of Building People commented that the industry is future proof and talent will always be needed. However, right now the sector doesn’t appeal to varied talent pools. Therefore, a change of culture is needed and we need to make diverse talent feel welcome. At the moment, only 14% of females make up incoming talent, and only 1% of on site population are female talent.

Before Covid, the industry needed to hire:

168,000 young people per year, but…

67% of young people reported they would never consider a career within Construction or Engineering. Of those, only 3% of 18-24 year old women have actively searched for a career within the industry

To tackle this problem, Building People are trying to engage with future talent earlier on in the recruitment journey by offering free learning resources to schools.

Skills shortages

Chris Shirley from Network Rail commented that since Covid, there has been an 80% reduction in apprenticeship vacancies across the UK. Offering policies alone will not be enough to address the disparity, and the industry is still primarily made up of white males.

Digital poverty

Another key point is technology – now we are conquering a virtual world, we need to ensure incoming talent have access to technology. Between 5-10% of incoming talent for Network Rail’s apprenticeships did not possess access to Wi-Fi or smart phones to complete or take part in key elements of the application.

If we don’t address this, we will lose vital, diverse, and brilliant talent

Victoria King from Highways England said that they have now hired a ‘Skills and Education Lead’ – a new role which should have been in place before. They are starting to work with local councils, support colleges, and discover what skills are needed from Higher Education.

What can be done?

The top takeaway is that although each company recognises the need to address skills shortages and diversity within the sector, they are at different stages of the journey. Understanding both immediate and long terms needs in the communities they operate in will be key in tackling this going forward.

Addressing digital poverty, being able to scale up to reach more talent, and attract younger people to a career in the industry are just some of the steps we need to start taking today.