Is the industry really ready to change?
Construction is crying out for a more diverse and inclusive workforce. There are multiple businesses across the country trying to come up with an answer of how we can make this happen. But I ask if we can achieve this, if we continue to follow the normal practices in the way projects are supplied with operatives.
On the A14C2H project, we agreed to work with other suppliers in a collaborative, innovative model that really changed the way operatives were sourced and supplied to the project. We were empowered by the project to develop a process we felt would bring transparency to recruitment. And we managed to implement technology which made things a lot more efficient. However for me, the use of blind CVs and employing operatives on skills alone really changed my mindset on how things should work.
We don’t like to admit it, but we are creatures of comfort.
If we see a CV with a name, project or company on it we know and trust, there is a chance we are going to pick that operative ahead of someone who may have a better skill set. In fact, that is neither fair nor inclusive. Nor good for the project. We found taking all this information out and purely going on skills, encouraged the process to be fairer and more transparent. This in turn helped us develop a culture that operatives wanted to be part of and a place they wanted to work.
Employing on skills created less turnover of staff. That increased productivity, saving all involved valuable time, and of course money. And it gave us diversity results on the project that were way ahead of most of the industry. We proved that small changes can have great results if done correctly!
And now VGC is going further, recruiting on behaviours and attitudes as well as skills. That means we can encourage people from other backgrounds to join construction as a career. VGC also wants to develop the right behaviours in people already working here, so people can grow. That’s what the company is doing with the workforce leaders programme as part of the VGC Academy. That makes a way for people to grow their careers whatever their path wants to be.
How can we encourage more people into construction?
It is all about a level playing field. People will only want to come into the industry if they think they are going to have a fair chance of securing a job – and keeping it. The pipeline of works for major infrastructure has never looked better. So now is the time to set the foundations for a generation of workers coming into the market who demand fairer practices.
However, as a labour supplier, we can only push for changes. People have to be willing to make them – in offices and on sites; clients, contractors and suppliers. There are pockets of great practice, but there are also sites where you can only work if you know someone. We all need to want to change to become fully diverse and welcoming of everyone for their differences.
I just hope we really are ready to change as an industry, together.