Construction industry must do more for young people

Outgoing Wates chief executive Paul Drechsler has called on contractors to work with schools to help tackle a “serious skills deficit” over the next decade.

Speaking to Construction News, Mr Drechsler said the construction industry was better placed than any other sector in the UK to partner with schools in deprived areas and support young people due to its large supply chain.

The more construction companies get involved, the more they establish a channel into construction at school and can work with schools to excite young people about the construction industry

Wates has pledged to support more than 10,000 young people aged 14 to 20 to get involved in social action during 2014 through its work with schools.

It came as the Prince of Wales launched a new campaign, Step Up to Serve, which aims to raise the proportion of 10 to 20-year-olds who are involved in social action from 28 per cent to 50 per cent by 2020.

Wates is one of eight ‘pioneer businesses’ involved in the campaign, but Mr Drechsler said he wanted to see other contractors commit to the initiative.

The construction industry in particular is facing a potentially serious skills deficit over the next decade, by helping young people now, we can ensure tomorrow’s workers have all the qualities required to meet the UK’s future construction challenges. – Paul Drechsler, Wates

Mr Drechsler criticised the stop-start nature of infrastructure building in the UK and said that to address the skills shortage in construction there needed to be certainty of future workload.

Give us time, allow us to get organised and of course we can deliver the skills

Mr Drechsler added that too little had been done to support STEM subjects – science, technology, engineering and maths – in schools. 

He said an effort had to be made to increase the number of male and female students studying STEM subjects and moving into engineering careers.

The construction industry also needed to become more inclusive and diverse to be more appealing to women and ethnic minorities, he said.

Mr Drechsler will step down from his role as Wates’ chief executive at the end of 2013 and will become chairman of charity Teach First next January.

He is also chairman of the Business in the Community education leadership team and chairman of The Prince’s Trust’s Get into Construction committee.

Wates partners with schools through Business in the Community’s Business Class programme, through which it delivers mentoring, ‘careers in construction’ sessions and CV and interview workshops.




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