From education to employment



Currently the UK is in the remarkable position of having more job vacancies than there are unemployed people. However, many sectors are still struggling to replace workers from the European Union following their exodus after Brexit. So, where is the nation going to get the bricklayers, carpenters and crane drivers needed to fulfil future infrastructure and construction projects?

Take construction. A survey by the Federation of Master Builders (FMB) found that 61% of members have delayed jobs due to a shortage of skilled tradespeople. This is an issue going forward. The hire industry is committed to attracting and then supporting new people by engaging with the nation’s educational establishments, which can help with Gatsby obligations, and championing job development schemes.

The construction industry couldn’t function without the hire sector, which tends to get overlooked by young people leaving education and seeking a career path. The biggest challenge is recruitment and retention. That’s not to say it’s more difficult in our industry than in any other, but the education system is not currently turning out people with the right skill sets even for such a diverse marketplace as ours.

Governments could do more by getting some of the skills needed for construction and hiring onto the school curriculum. There is a big push on STEM with students being encouraged to get into manufacturing and engineering but not bricklaying or carpentry. We hope that by collaborating with other trade organisations we can work with the education department more closely on this.

In a bid to win over young minds, Hire Association Europe and Event Hire Association (HAE EHA) is raising the hire industry’s profile through more school visits, highlighting the many varied career paths on offer. After all, young people might not be aware that both sectors of the hire industry supply equipment and building sets for major outdoor events and music festivals such as Glastonbury!

With some funding from the Construction Industry Training Board (CITB) HAE is already involved with a youth employment initiative to encourage people to join the construction industry via the Routeway Programme. Following the lifting of Covid restrictions, this is enabling stakeholders to go into schools and colleges with two-hour workshops designed to address the lack of awareness and understanding of what the hire industry is all about. 

A broad cross section of skills is required to keep the hire sector competitive and construction projects on track. Job opportunities are wide ranging from hire desk operatives, drivers, depot managers and mechanics to customer service, IT, financial and logistics. Getting the right people is proving tricky – which is why the industry is promoting apprenticeships and vocational degree courses. 

HAE is also a gateway for the DWP’s Kickstart Scheme, the multi-million-pound government initiative designed to create thousands of high-quality work placements for young people aged 16-24 who are at risk of long-term unemployment. Almost half the placements we put on the programme are now permanently employed by members. 

Then there is the new Leadership Programme so that employees of any age can develop their leadership skills. It provides a path for advancement and career progression by learning how to succeed in a highly competitive marketplace. Our strategy is not confined to the younger generation, but reaching out to potential workers from any background, age group and gender – no previous experience necessary. 

We have also launched the Women in Hire mentoring project to encourage more diversity in the workplace. This new initiative will provide a coordinated support structure to aid in the recruitment, retention and development of women in the hire sector. The project aims to attract new female entrants, while also developing the current female talent pool within the industry.

Working with schools and colleges explaining the opportunities and encouraging youngsters to consider a career in the hire sector by pushing apprenticeship and work placement programmes can help boost the workforce, while the graduate scheme is a series of NVQ levels to encourage career progression to depot manager or even a senior manager or director role. 

In a bid to win over young minds, the association is also adapting gaming technology by offering virtual reality training modules. It is hoped these initiatives will fast-track individuals on a career to reach the very top of the hire sector profession. 

The hire sector is a vital component in enabling the delivery of economic activity, commercial and public, in the UK and globally. HAE EHA members facilitate and provide the equipment for construction projects, major sporting, exhibition and entertainment events. The hire sector is determined to source and retain the talent that can sustain the industry – and thus support other industries – through the decades to come.

By Ann Harrison, Group Marketing Manager at Hire Association Europe (HAE)

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