Could women plug construction trades skills shortage?
Anecdotal evidence from nationwide skip hire broker ProSkips reveals the number of women playing an active role in construction projects is far higher than official figures suggest.
According to the Office for National Statistics, the proportion of women working in construction climbed to 13.4% in 2014 from 11.7% in 1999. However, only 1.3% of manual construction workers are female, little changed from 1.2% in 1999.
And the ONS adds that the number of women working as roofers, bricklayers and glaziers is so low that it is unmeasurable.
Those figures are in line with data from the Union of Construction, Allied Trades and Technicians, which says women make up 11% of the construction workforce and just 1% of workers on site.
At ProSkips HQ in south-west London, however, about 50% of initial phone enquiries from domestic customers requiring a single skip come from women. We believe many of these callers are the partners of individuals carrying out small-scale projects at private homes, or work for small building firms contracted for similar jobs.
This begs the question why are more women not employed in the construction sector when figures from the government-backed Construction Industry Training Board suggest that 182,000 roles will need to be filled by 2018?
The answer is found in the results of a UCATT survey of women already working in the construction industry, which reveals:
- 51% feel they are treated worse at work simply because of their gender
- The top three problems are a lack of promotion prospects, lower pay than their male colleagues and feeling isolated
- 40% identified bulling and harassment by managers as a problem
- Almost 30% were afraid to complain about poor treatment to their managers
- 25% had to share toilet facilities with men
- 15% have difficulty finding personal protective equipment that fits properly
The union, which has about 2,100 women members accounting for just over 2% of its total membership, is stepping up its efforts to fight for dignity and equality for women already working in the sector, so that more women can and want to work in construction.
It’s very unlikely that there will ever be an equal split of men and women working in the construction trades, either on-site or off-site, but it is in all of our interests to support and encourage women who have made construction their career choice.
Britain is facing its biggest skills shortage for a generation and the construction industry has been particularly hard hit at a time when the outlook for the sector is at its strongest level since 2007.
Research by recruitment consultant Manpower reveals that in London one in three of the largest construction companies is having to turn down bidding opportunities due to a shortage of skilled labour.
In fact, the shortage of skilled labour is so acute that building firms are being forced to double bricklayers’ wages from £500 to £1,000 a week.
UCATT blames the shortage on “a 30-year failure to train apprentices” and training body Construction Skills estimates the industry needs 35,000 new entrants just to stand still. Does it matter whether they are young men or women?
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