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Celebrating Diversity in Construction for South Asian Heritage Month

Celebrating Diversity in Construction for South Asian Heritage Month

At Leeds College of Building, we are delighted to celebrate South Asian Heritage Month (SAHM) with everyone, but especially with our 265 students of South Asian heritage.

This annual celebration from 18 July to 17 August provides a wonderful opportunity to recognise and embrace the rich cultural diversity within our vibrant community. Over the coming weeks, we are delving into a shared culture with stories from our student body, governors, and employer partners.

Leeds, a city known for its cultural diversity, is an ideal backdrop for this celebration. According to the 2021 census, Leeds is home to a thriving South Asian community comprising 8.7% of the total population.

It is heartening to note that the College has a student body that closely mirrors this demographic, with South Asian individuals accounting for 7.5% of our students. This alignment demonstrates our commitment to fostering inclusivity and providing equal opportunities for students of all backgrounds.

We are proud to highlight the positive progress our institution has made in terms of representation within our college community but we are passionate about doing even more.

Embracing our cultural heritage

During SAHM, we have the privilege of showcasing the remarkable contributions and narratives of the South Asian community at our college. South Asia is a region brimming with diverse cultures, languages, traditions, and histories.

We hope to foster a deeper understanding and appreciation for the cultural tapestry that makes up the communities we serve. Through inclusivity and equity, we continue to build a learning environment where all students can flourish, regardless of background or ethnicity. 

By embracing and learning from these stories, we hope to foster a deeper understanding and appreciation for our diverse community and the rich beauty of this heritage.

We are privileged to teach over 5,500 students enrolled on entry-level courses to degree qualifications and offer apprenticeship opportunities to over 2,700 students. We work closely with over 800 national employer partners to enable all our apprentices to reach their full potential.

At Leeds College of Building, we firmly believe that diversity and inclusivity are vital for a thriving education environment, equipping our students to succeed within a modern society.

Understanding student representation

We are committed to ensuring that our institution reflects the wider community and provides an environment where everyone feels welcome and valued. Promoting equity, social justice, and belonging is vital if we are to provide a setting where students from all backgrounds can thrive and succeed.

The student demographics at Leeds College of Building reveal an encouraging trend in representation. While the Leeds population is 5.6% black, our college enjoys a significant 15.5% black student cohort.

However, despite its size, the construction sector is consistently shown to be one of the least diverse in the UK, with some statistics estimating 86% of construction workers are male and nearly 94% are white.

Our student body comprises 77% white students, which again closely aligns with Leeds’ 79% white population. That said, we continue to work towards increasing diversity, enabling all students to benefit from their peers’ shared experiences and perspectives.

We must collectively promote and embrace more opportunities, such as SAHM, to underrepresented students within our South Asian communities.

Championing apprenticeship diversity

Apprenticeships are crucial in bridging skills gaps and nurturing the next generation of professionals. However, diversity must be at the forefront to truly bind together the potential of apprenticeship programmes.

Welcoming individuals from diverse backgrounds, such as the South Asian community, not only enhances cultural representation but also brings varied perspectives, innovation, and a wealth of untapped talent.

Historically, ethnic minorities have been underrepresented in the construction industry, including on apprenticeship programmes. Various factors, including limited awareness, unconscious biases in recruitment, and social and economic barriers, influence this.

These same individuals may also face challenges accessing apprenticeship opportunities due to limited networks, information, and resources. Unequal access to quality education, training, and career guidance can sadly contribute to disparities in participation.

Perceptions and stereotypes associated with the construction industry may deter some individuals from considering apprenticeships too. The existence of a predominantly white and male-dominated industry can create barriers and contribute to a lack of representation.

Apprenticeships often require a supportive environment, including mentors, role models, and inclusive workplace cultures. Limited representation of ethnic minorities within the industry can create a lack of support networks and role models for aspiring apprentices from varied backgrounds.

Driving change in construction

As a college, we are committed to driving change and supporting the construction industry to develop a more inclusive and diverse culture.

Within our current Equality, Diversity, and Inclusion (EDI) action plan, Leeds College of Building set robust actions to drive progress and evaluate impact, including enhancing our schools offer, staff development training, employer relationships, action groups, and reviewing internal processes.

As we embrace South Asian Heritage Month, it is vital to prioritise diversity in all our training and especially our apprenticeships. By implementing our proposed action plan, we hope to empower South Asian apprentices and support employers in creating inclusive opportunities.

Together, we can build a future where apprenticeships and students truly reflect our diverse society, unlocking the potential of all individuals and creating a skilled workforce that thrives on inclusivity and cultural richness.

Article by Rob Holmes, Assistant Principal – Quality and Student Experience, Leeds College of Building

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