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Attracting the next generation of construction workers.

Blending education, stability and progression is essentially how an apprenticeship works. The construction industry is built on great apprenticeship programmes and without them, we’re going to miss out on valuable talent. Today, we must think about redefining what an apprenticeship means. It’s more than a skills programme, it’s a route for real change.

Young blood and apprenticeships

Back in the day, you left school and either went straight to work, university, or started an apprenticeship. While the digital revolution is changing the career paths for those heading into the workforce, that doesn’t mean apprenticeships have lost their desirability.

According to TD Ameritrade, 89% of Generation Z, born between 1996-2010, have considered not going to university. That is a huge number!

79% of Gen Z’ers believe it’s important to develop new skills throughout life. And with more autonomy and independence, Generation Z have the power to carve out their own career paths.

Blending education, stability and progression is essentially how an apprenticeship works. The construction industry is built on great apprenticeship programmes and without them, we’re going to miss out on valuable talent.

Today, we must think about redefining what an apprenticeship means. It’s more than a skills programme, it’s a route for real change.

So, what’s different about Gen Z.

Gen Z are set to have a profound impact on the workplace. A generation defined by their digital literacy, steadfast values, and political potency; this young blood is clear on what they want. And the construction industry needs to get a handle on how to attract, retain and nurture them effectively.

In this industry, we place great importance on investments in infrastructure, technology, and development, but how much are we investing in the future talent of construction? For businesses with decades of success behind them, now is not the time to become complacent. We must focus on the talent of tomorrow and redefine how we operate to work productively alongside them and embrace new workplace values and goals.

How can construction leaders react strategically to invest in the future workforce while maintaining business reputation and longevity? Let’s take a deeper look into their values, characteristics, and how they relate to the construction industry

Gen Z values

The voice of Gen Z is strong and formidable. They are not shy of communicating their values and place these at the forefront of decision-making, particularly when it comes to choosing a career path or employer.

Values include ethnic diversity, gender equality and LGBQT+ recognition, and environmental protection. Generation Z also places great emphasis on learning and development, with ‘learning new skills’ a key priority for Gen Z school leavers. These are all factors in how they will make informed decisions about who they work with, and for.

While it would be foolish to stereotype individuals based on their age group, Generation Z are the first to have not known the world without 24/7 internet access. This constant connection to information and commerce has not only enabled them to self-educate, but given them greater autonomy when choosing brands, employers, and products.

A strong digital presence, great user experience and vocalising your core values will be key in facilitating connections with the younger generations. But it’s not enough to talk about these values, construction companies will have to actively demonstrate them.

Having said that, Gen Z do not claim to know everything, with learning and development a key factor in how much loyalty they have to employees. While their millennial counterparts are known for their ‘job hopping’ Generation Z are likely to demonstrate loyalty to an employer if they place a focus on development and stability. This is good news for the construction industry, and perhaps an opportunity to place emphasis on filling skills gaps, creating strong apprenticeship programmes built around gen Z values.

 Gen Z concerns

Many members of the demographic are said to grapple with eco-anxiety, and seek ways to tackle the climate emergency. As Deloitte writes, only 18% of gen Zs believe their employers are strongly committed to fighting climate change.

Younger generations will expect to see employers prioritise climate actions and present opportunities for them to participate too. The cost-of-living crisis has also impacted the way Gen Z sees the world, and perhaps contributes to their preference for job stability and security.

Deloitte reports the rising concerns around the cost of living and existential crises are key concerns among Gen Z. Actively engaging with teams about how they can progress in their career and work towards a higher salary is an effective way to tackle this concern while managing individual expectations.

Gen Z will prioritise their mental health more so that previous generations. This could be a wakeup call for the construction industry, where generations before have worn the ‘12 hour working day’ as a badge of honour. While that might come under the guise of hard work, it’s at the risk of declining mental health, burnout, and an impact on performance. Perhaps Gen Z will drive more manageable and consistent working patterns that are mindful or mental health. This could be advantageous to employers since a healthy and focused workforce is more likely to be high performing.

Attracting Gen Z

Research suggests that Gen Z don’t generally desire construction as a career, with only 7% of school leavers in 2018 choosing construction as a career path. This, paired with the undeniable skills gap is alarming, and highlights the necessity of investing in future talent. But how can we attract a generation who have seemingly little interest in the sector?

With a focus on technology and digital careers, the perception of construction as hands-on could potentially be off-putting. Industry leaders will need to consider pivoting their recruitment strategies and how skills requirements are conveyed to the younger generation.

Communicating the benefits of an apprenticeship or career in construction, and how they can be aligned with Gen Z values and concerns that matter to Gen Z, is a step in the right direction. Gen Z thrive when they know they are contributing to bettering the world, and they will be using their innate research skills to ensure that whoever they choose to work for is in tune with those values too.

Gen Z currently accounts for 12.6 million of the UK population. That’s too big a demographic to ignore. Meet them halfway by introducing your industry as a game-changer in response to their values. How will they be able to contribute to their goals around climate activism and diversity? How does the industry manage and monitor mental health?

Investing in tomorrow

So, how do we attract young blood while maintaining the equilibrium of the industry? Because there are other generations still present in the workforce bringing irreplaceable talent. Too much change and you risk losing them, while sticking with old ways is sure to make you appear outdated and miss out on budding new talent.

A slow and steady approach is the most sensible. Ensuring leadership teams are transparent and open about changes, while educating existing members on the whys and hows of new working patterns.

As stated above, a great area of focus will be apprenticeships in the construction industry. This is perhaps the best place to start. By aligning apprenticeship programmes with new working preferences and values, businesses can appeal to fresh, new talent.

Meanwhile, start asking the following questions:

How are mental health and burnout to be monitored and managed? Will reassurance and stability be offered by managers? How will this apprenticeship programme consider environmental impact, and can they make a difference too?

Gen Z wants to feel a part of something bigger, and that they are working towards a better world. So make sure you are commuting benefits that matter to Gen Z and the rest of the workforce. We’re going through unavoidable change right now; play the cards you have been dealt to your advantage by future proofing your business.

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If you’d like to chat with us about an existing or future project, simply fill in the form and we’ll get back to you as soon as we can.

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