^^ A very typical stock image for "construction" ^^
Contributed by Darren Lester
For as long as I’ve been involved in and around the construction industry, there’s been an underlying consensus that we need to clean up the public's perception of the industry.
Disasters like Grenfell Tower and scandals like the Carillion collapse tend to bring this into sharp focus and we see a renewed energy to show people the positive stuff in construction.
The legitimate worry is that all of the negativity, combined with the image of the stereotypical construction worker, complete with hard hat and hi-vis jacket, will limit our ability to attract younger, smarter, tech-savvy professionals and the must-needed next generation workforce.
So the logical conclusion is to try to push the good stuff even harder.
But perhaps this is the wrong approach.
Unfortunately, the truth is that the public image of the construction industry exists for a reason — it’s mostly accurate.
To portray anything else would be misleading.
Our industry has huge issues, from top to bottom.
We’re embarrassingly inefficient. Rarely deliver as promised. We overspend. We’re huge polluters. We're wasteful with resources. We put people’s physical health and lives at risk on a daily basis. We have a terrible record of mental ill health amongst workers. We’re rife with corruption and 'old boys' clubs. We treat women unfairly. We lack any sort of competent leadership. And we’re pretty much the worst of laggards in adopting digital technology.
I could go on.
If we continue to try to put a positive spin on things, or suppress these issues in order to exemplify the glimmers of hope there are within the industry (and don't get me wrong, they do exist), then we’ll end up with another generation of workers who simply knuckle down and accept that this is as good as it gets.
Ironically, shining a light on these shortcomings, by making them painfully transparent to the whole world and by holding our hands up to say “sorry, things aren’t great”, perhaps we can give ourselves the best chance of driving change.
Because all of the sh*t that’s wrong with our industry is actually what could attract the smartest, most ambitious young professionals and entrepreneurs (and the capital to back them), who see an opportunity to really disrupt and rebuild a huge industry.
Yes, we should continue to educate young professionals about the industry, and show them that there are more options to a career in construction than working on a cold, wet building site. But all industries have their stereotypes - that in itself isn't holding us back from change.
But perhaps we should also share with them our biggest failings, and present them as rewarding opportunities for those willing to challenge the status quo.
Not an easy thing to do, but maybe we'd end up with real change, rather than a slightly improved public image.
Let's Fix Construction is an avenue to offer creative solutions, separate myths from facts and erase misconceptions about the architecture, engineering and construction (AEC) industry.
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