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More young women consider construction careers but cost-of-living crisis risks progress

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Today’s research, launched during National Apprenticeship Week (#NAW2022), reveals that whilst there has been clear progress in the number of young people considering apprenticeships, there are wide-ranging concerns around the financial benefits, with sentiment around pay prospects at their lowest level since 2019.

Now in its sixth year, Redrow’s Apprenticeship Report analyses the barriers to entry-level recruitment into the construction and the housebuilding sectors, as well as recommendations to overcome these. Redrow canvassed 2,000 parents and young people, as well as 100 of its own apprentices, and benchmarked the findings against previous years.

Whilst more young women are considering a career in construction this year, and parents are having more conversations about apprenticeships with their children, positive financial associations of apprenticeships are trending down. The proportion of young people believing an apprenticeship brings greater financial independence at an earlier age (when compared to studying full time) has dropped from a high of 41% in 2019 to just 28% in 2022. Parents are now matching this apprehension, with 1 in 5 parents saying they would be concerned about their child’s career prospects upon finishing an apprenticeship.

Redrow is calling on the government and industry to take advantage of today’s changing landscape and the opportunity to innovate the way they attract young people into apprenticeships by giving them more confidence about their future.

Closing the gender gap

In an industry particularly challenged by gendered preconceptions, this year more young women responded saying they see construction as a possible career path (27% vs 20% in 2021).

Young women are also increasingly discussing the possibility of a career in construction with their parents, with the proportion of those that hadn’t discussed it dropping from 54% in 2020 to 39% in 2022. 

40% of young people perceive the sector to be heavily dominated by men, a substantial drop from 54% in 2017.

Careers advice at school

The disruption to the nation’s classrooms throughout the pandemic meant that pupils were even more likely to miss out on careers advice, with the proportion of young adults who had information on apprenticeships outlined to them at school falling from a high of 63% in 2018 to just 54% this year.

Those in Yorkshire and the Humber were the most likely to say that someone at their school had outlined information to them on apprenticeships (63%), whilst those from London were the least likely to have received any information on apprenticeships from their school (38%).

One in four young people say they get the most useful information about careers from their friends; despite the fact friends are likely to still be in education or exploring their future options themselves, further highlighting the importance of equipping young people with the information they need to make decisions about their future.

Money matters

This year’s results show a wider concern around cost-of-living, and the long-term financial implications of undertaking an apprenticeship. Just 59% of young adults this year (vs. 65% 2019) agree that apprenticeships equate to earning money while studying and not incurring student debts. 

Those who believe an apprenticeship brings greater financial independence at an earlier age compared to studying full time has also dropped from a high of 41% in 2019 to just 28% in 2022, the lowest it has ever been. Additionally, one in three of young people think that an apprenticeship has lower career earnings than a traditional graduate pathway.

Overwhelmingly, each demographic believes that starting wages could be increased to encourage more young people to study apprenticeships, with 52% of parents and 41% of young people saying that an increase in starting wages would be the biggest motivator.

However, alongside financial implications, the pandemic has changed what’s important for young people when choosing a career. 1 in 5 young believe that having a work / life balance that accommodates family, friends and hobbies is important with a similar proportion citing a desire for their career to have a positive impact on society. We’ve recognised this amongst our own colleagues and responded by pledging 1000 days of volunteering to local communities and initiatives and giving employees two days of volunteering leave. 

Parental influence

Young people say they get the most useful information about careers from their parents, whilst parents cited careers counsellors (41%), teachers (37%) and industry mentors (30%) as the sources they think young people get the most useful information from – showing that parents don’t necessarily realise the extent of their influence.

Positively, conversations around apprenticeships have also become more commonplace as 7 in 10 parents (72%) now discuss this route, building on results in the previous two years. Additionally, 27% are more likely to encourage their child to do an apprenticeship than pre-pandemic.

When looking at two prevailing misconceptions around careers in construction, parents in Wales were most likely to say that a career in construction involved predominantly manual labour (42% vs 32% nationally) and parents in London were most likely to say it involved working on a building site (45% vs 28% nationally).

Karen Jones, HR Director at Redrow, commented:

“Whilst it is clear there are still fundamental barriers in place hampering entry-level recruitment into the sector, things are also moving in the right direction. The quality of advice in schools is improving and the increasingly positive attitudes of young women and girls toward construction careers suggests the industry is becoming more welcoming and inclusive.

“There are undoubtedly concerns about what it means financially to undertake an apprenticeship. Of course, this can in part be pinned to wider societal anxiety around the power of the pound in our pocket, and what the future looks like. However, it also shows there is still work to be done in educating parents and young adults on the potential of a career in construction.

“15% of Redrow’s workforce are apprentices, and the business believes there is an opportunity to take advantage of today’s changing landscape and innovate the way young people are encouraged into apprenticeships to alleviate concerns around what a career will mean for them.

“As an accredited Living Wage Foundation employer we also pay our apprentices in excess of the National Minimum Wage for apprentices and greater industry adoption of this would help to ensure pay is not a barrier to training.

“Financial barriers, from the wages paid to how businesses can utilise the apprenticeship levy, risk derailing all the positive progress industry and government has made and must be urgently addressed.”

Redrow’s recommendations for driving careers in construction:

  1. Inspire influencers: Proactively use social media to target the key influencers of young people – parents and teachers – with tailored content, including workshops and targeted information campaigns, to challenge stereotypes and to empower them to pass on options, not misconceptions.
  2. Restructure the apprenticeship levy: Expansion of what levy funds can be used to pay for would allow smaller businesses to boost the hiring of apprenticeships, whilst also allowing larger businesses to use the levy effectively without having to return it to the Treasury.
  3. Establish a fair apprenticeship wage: which is calculated according to what employees and their families need to live, and that is reflective of the part of the UK in which they live. As well as a fair wage, businesses need to ensure they’re providing an employment experience that meets a young person’s wider needs, such as promoting a positive work/life balance and including volunteering days.
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