Construction and engineering is one of those professions where a stereotypical worker is a man, but many women are defying this image to forge successful careers for themselves.
This week is a very good time for construction sector employers to think about how to capture the talent that is out there, not just to increase diversity, but to break down barriers to ambition and the fulfilment of talent.
With this issue in mind, the week of International Women’s Day (March 8th) has also been marked as Women in Construction Week (March 7th-13th).
Shortfalls in construction and engineering skills – made worse in some cases through EU workers leaving Britain after Brexit – mean there should be plenty of openings for talented women to come in and fill the gaps. Firms may be surprised and delighted at how much help apprenticeships providers can offer to help bring this about.
The role that apprenticeships can play in helping fill skills shortages in the STEM fields has been highlighted this week by Fenews, which noted that this is particularly pertinent when it comes to getting women into construction and engineering jobs.
It highlighted the latest figures from the Women’s Engineering Society that show female workers make up 13 per cent of engineers and just under 18 per cent of the higher apprentices in the engineering and manufacturing sectors, at a time when 182,000 new engineers a year are needed to bridge the skills gap.
Among the trainee apprentices hoping they can make a difference are Zoe Fittock and Angelina Stankovic. Ms Fittock said an apprenticeship offers an “attractive option” for people like her and is a “strong rival” to higher education because of the practical experience it provides in the real world.
“With it being Women in Construction Week, it’s an important time to be talking about the need for more women in the construction sector,” she commented, adding that apprenticeships provide a chance for women to “circumvent the glass ceiling and get their foot in the door”.
Ms Stankovic agreed. She said: “The construction industry is as hands-on as it gets,” adding that the “opportunity to gain practical experience with software, design implementation, and working as a team on a common project goal is invaluable”.
The experience the pair had gained from working on sites had provided them with “great insights” into the sector that were much better than anything they could learn in a university lecture.
Much remains to be done to get more women into construction. A survey by recruitment firm Search Consultancy carried out to mark International Women’s Day found 68 per cent of managers believe the sector has an ongoing problem when it comes to gender diversity.
This was the worst finding for any sector, followed by the transport and industrial sectors.
In addition, over half of managers in the construction sector felt there was a problem with race and age diversity as well.
Transforming the construction sector will no doubt take time, but apprenticeships may be an extremely effective way to help young women who wish to shatter stereotypes to fulfil their dreams.