The Construction Industry Training Board (CITB) recently asked a group of 14 to 19 year olds what careers interested them – construction scored a tiny 4.2 out of 10. According to the survey, young people claimed that construction means ‘being outdoors and getting dirty.’

It’s very clear that the next generation do not see the benefits or the opportunities that the construction industry has to offer and are not getting the right information to make an informed decision.That’s confirmed by another recent survey, this time from Novus Property Solutions, which suggests that schools and universities are failing to raise awareness regarding construction as a career option.

And according to yet another survey, house building is particularly vulnerable with only 3% of young people wanting to know more. Depressingly, most stated that they simply felt that construction work was just too hard.

Despite contributing a massive 7% of the UK’s GDP and generating an output of more than £110 billion per annum, the construction industry is still facing a major skills shortage which is likely to worsen unless perceptions are changed within schools.

National Construction Training Services (NCTS) says the industry will have to fill the space left by the schools system if it is to attract the young people that are so desperately needed in the next few years.

NCTS is already looking to work with the CITB, trade federations and manufacturers to encourage more young people to take up apprenticeships. The company is also looking at ways of attracting more funding to allow this to happen at a national level.

While initiatives like this need to be applauded, it is clear that schools and universities need to come on board and recognise the high levels of craft and academic skills that are required from today’s construction professionals.

Young people clearly feel that construction is solely a profession for the non-academic and perhaps overlook the fact that careers in the building industry offer so much more.

Perhaps they should look more closely at statistics. Business surveys suggest the demand for subcontractors is soaring as vacancies remain unfilled. The average advertised salary in the sector is up 14% on a year ago to £38,813, according to the jobs search engine Adzuna. The number of vacancies is up 28% on the year – beating the 26% increase Adzuna reports across all UK industries. Another report says 20% more workers will be needed to fulfil contracts in London and the south east over the next three years.

There is, however, a small silver lining. Skills minister, Nick Boles, has unveiled plans to create 3 million apprenticeships by 2020. As construction accounts for about 7% of GDP, it is possible that around 210,000 of these apprenticeships will go to the building industry, which equates to 42,000 a year over the next parliament.

Last word goes to NCTS which says that it lives in hope that the Government will; deliver these promises but in the meantime it is down to everyone in the industry to spread the word – construction offers so much for young people – and they need to hear that message.

By Philip Fergusson, Managing Director of NCTS