Working with the Construction Youth Trust

John Rowan and Partners have spent many years working alongside the Construction Youth Trust, from running up skyscrapers, to dinners and working with the people that matter, the budding brunels. We talk to Christine Townley, Ambassador of the Construction Youth Trust.

So in a nutshell what does the Construction Youth Trust do and what is it trying to achieve?
Construction Youth Trust is a charity that aims to bridge the gap between communities and construction, and the journey into bright and prosperous careers. That could be young people who are NEET (not in education, employment or training) who need that bit of additional support to access training and a transition into the trades. Equally it could be sixth formers to give them a taste of what the professions are like. In particular it’s about encouraging women and BME candidates to apply to university and study construction degrees or undertake higher level technician apprenticeships. Our aim is to enable young people to see what our industry is all about and for industry to connect with young people and recognise their talents.

I want to know who is the Michael Leary or the Richard Branson of the industry? I think having someone like that could change everything.

How do you go about doing this?
We have two main engagement programmes, Budding Builders and Budding Brunels. Budding Builders is all about raising awareness of the different trades and giving young people the opportunity to experience them, apply for CSCS cards and most importantly help them to access placements and jobs. Budding Brunels is focused on the professions and is targeted at year 12 students at a key decision making point in their academic and personal development. We connect a range of construction companies across the sector with schools to give students first-hand experience of what it’s like to work on a construction project.

The programme, which typically lasts three days takes them out on-site, introduces them to young professionals in the sector and gives them an understanding of the different routes into the sector. A percentage go on to complete work placements which then helps support their UCAS applications. Both of our programmes aim to help our young people overcome barriers to education, training or employment in construction.

We also have an initiative to promote and celebrate exceptional young talent, which is through The Duke of Gloucester’s Young Achievers Scheme. It celebrates diversity, and recognises achievements made by young people from challenging backgrounds as well as construction advocates who actively promote the built environment to young people in their communities.

What lesson would you like to see the industry learn from the recent downturn?
I’d like to see better planning and preparation where lessons are learnt from this recession and applied for the commercial benefit of the sector and wider economy. If companies had the foresight to continue with skills development during the recent downturn they would be primed to deal with the improving market and the opportunity it presents.

As a country we currently have 750,000 young people unemployed and 750,000 jobs that need to be filled, which is madness. The sector should take the time to engage with these young people, to encourage them to look at the opportunities within our industry and train them for the jobs.

What do you think is the most effective way to promote a career in the construction industry to young people?
We need to get construction professionals into the heart of our communities and connected with young people. It’s about taking industry professionals into schools, this means real people doing real jobs and inspiring young people with their stories. We already do this with the professions but I’d like to open it up to foremen, steel fixers, scaffolders and the many other myriad of roles that make our sector one of the most dynamic and diverse. I don’t think young people appreciate the wealth of trades within the industry and career opportunities open to them.

What are the biggest challenges facing the sector with employment in the future?
The biggest challenge facing the sector aside from the skills shortage is our aging workforce. We’re not only facing a skills shortage but we also have a high level of workers who will be retiring. Essentially not enough people are coming in and half of them are heading out. This will further intensify the skills shortage and force more work to be outsourced abroad.

If you could change one thing within the construction industry what would it be?
I think the construction industry is apologetic. I would like to see it being bolder and more confident about what it achieves. You only see a CEO of a construction company when something goes wrong, so why aren’t they seen when things go right? We don’t have any big business celebrities to promote the industry. I want to know who is the Michael Leary or the Richard Branson of the industry? I think having someone like that could change everything. If you took ten significant people from our industry into a school I doubt many people could identify any of them. But having recognised personalities for the construction industry could really make a difference in raising awareness with young people.