Apprentices help improve diversity in construction

Shot of a group of builders assessing progress at a construction site

Construction offers young people the chance to leave a lasting legacy that future generations will benefit from - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Diversity has been an ongoing issue in the construction industry. Statistics from the Chartered Institute of Building (CIOB) indicate that women make up 15% of the UK construction industry, while employees from black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) communities make up 6% of the workforce and the same percentage of the workforce are disabled.

The CIOB stated that exact figures for LGBTQ+ people in construction are “unclear”.

But many local businesses, such as Lovell and Morgan Sindall Construction, understand the important role that equality and inclusion play in the future of the sector and are working to attract people from all walks of life through actively engaging with schools and local groups.

Helen Clements, social value manager in the east at Morgan Sindall Construction, believes the industry, although “behind the curve”, is hugely important and leaves an amazing legacy that it doesn’t shout about enough.

Some of their recent initiatives include running a Positive Action Programme pilot scheme in Norfolk with Women into Construction, which exceeded its targets both in number of women registering with the programme and the number of women moving into permanent employment.

Helen Clements, social value manager in the east at Morgan Sindall Construction

Helen Clements, social value manager in the east at Morgan Sindall Construction - Credit: Helen Clements

Both companies partner with secondary schools and colleges that have programmes to signpost young people to the range of careers available in the sector from the outset. The pinnacle of the programme is the virtual and in-person work experience, which is based on either a team of students completing a design project or the traditional work shadow experience.

Helen said these initiatives have had a direct impact on who is joining the business. In 2021, 50% of people starting apprenticeships with Morgan Sindall Construction were women and 33% were from BAME communities – while 60% of apprentices met the company through educational engagement activities and 70% having completed work experience. 

Lovell and Morgan Sindall Construction have made a conscious decision to encourage people from diverse backgrounds into the industry, recognising the significant benefits to staff and businesses alike. “There’s a number of reasons why diversity is important,” said Helen, “from greater staff retention to staff wellbeing.” 

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McKinsey & Company’s Diversity Wins report, published in 2020, also found that diverse companies are more likely to financially outperform their peers on profitability.

Stuart Middleton, project manager at Lovell and a key advocate for diversity in the business added that diversity also improves innovation. “Bringing lots of different people together with different experiences, outlooks and ideas drives innovation and creativity and makes a much better business.”

Stuart Middleton, project manager at Lovell

Stuart Middleton, project manager at Lovell - Credit: Stuart Middleton

As well as offering a secure career with a range of benefits, construction also provides apprentices with the chance to leave a lasting legacy and be part of an exciting industry that is at the forefront of innovation in sustainable design and building techniques.

With its commitment to be Net Zero by 2030, the Morgan Sindall Group (which Lovell is a part of) appreciates the key role new entrants will play in achieving this. “Apprentices have definitely helped us look and consider innovation in a different way,” said Helen. “And they challenge us to do things differently.”

Talented people are needed in a range of roles, from site management to quantity surveying, HR and IT.  With so many options, construction can be a great fit for a wide variety of young people, but what advice would Helen and Stuart give to those who are unsure about a career in the industry?

“I know there’s people out there that maybe feel like the industry isn’t for them because they don’t fit the stereotype,” said Stuart. “I want to let them know that they will be very welcome, whatever their background; construction is a fantastic industry and we know the new generations coming through will help businesses go from good to great.” 

Helen added: “It might not be for you, but if you don’t come and find out, you will never know.  

“It’s an incredible industry with the opportunity to leave a legacy that will be there long after you have retired.”

For more on apprenticeships with Lovell and Morgan Sindall Construction, please visit: