The Building Engineering Services Association (BESA) marked International Women's Day on Sunday by renewing its calls for a government strategy to diversify the workforce in the construction and engineering sectors.
At the 2019 general election, BESA lobbied the major political parties with its own Manifesto of policy proposals to create a better built environment and construction industry. One of the proposals called for the government to develop a comprehensive strategy and action plan to encourage young people, women, career changers and people from BAME backgrounds to take up careers in industries like construction and engineering in order to reflect the diversity of wider society and address chronic skilled labour shortages crippling the industry.
BESA Director of Training Helen Yeulet said: “Joining the building engineering services sector should be a no-brainer because there is plenty of opportunity for rewarding careers, and yet it is one of the least diverse in Europe and it does not reflect the society it serves.
“Out of every 100 people on construction sites, just one is female. In addition, just 12% of British engineers are women compared to 18% in Spain, 20% in Italy and 26% in Sweden,” she said. “And yet 65% of engineering employers say a shortage of female engineers is a threat to their business and companies are 15% more likely to perform better if they are gender diverse.”
BESA is continuing to support the Women in Engineering Society (WES) initiative to increase the proportion of female engineers in the UK to 30% by 2030.
“BESA remains strongly committed to embracing diversity and inclusion because it is vital we shift the male, stale and pale perception so our members have the right people to meet their future needs,” said Ms Yeulet.
“Our sector faces serious challenges: decades of low investment in training and recruitment; post-Brexit changes to migration; and most pressingly we now face a crisis of demographics at both ends of the scale. Around 50% of people working in building services related jobs are expected to retire before the end of this decade and we will struggle to find enough apprentices and entrant level labour to replace them.
“The building engineering workforce of the 2020s and beyond should look very different to what it has been in the past. Engineering professions will not be able to meet future business goals without a far more gender diverse workforce. Put simply, any strategy aiming to plug the skills shortage will fail if it ignores half the population.”