General Construction 708 views Jun 13, 2019
Can we fix it? Yes we can

A muddy site, a tool belt and hard hat, wolf whistling, dirty finger nails, Bob the Builder and middle-aged men are just some of the perceptions we have when we think of people who work in the construction industry. Lest we forget our hard-working tradesmen who are up at the crack of dawn laying bricks, but ‘construction’ has way more to it than that. There is no escaping construction. The building you’re sitting in right now keeping you warm and safe is ‘construction’ yet our nation sees it as an unappealing career option, but guess what! I’m a woman in my mid-thirties and I work in construction and I love it writes Kelly Slociak, Head of PR, Fabrick .

When I was 16 I had already mapped out that I was going to be an actress and have 4 children (including one set of twins) by the age of 30. I spoke to the careers advisor and my teachers and I chose my GCSE disciplines ‘X’, ‘Y’ and ‘Z’ and off I went. Limited choices, limited opportunities… Did I really know at that age what I really wanted to do, or more importantly, what my best skills were in order to guide me? Probably not, but back then that was what it was.

For the record, I quickly learnt I was a rubbish actress, and actually the thought of having 4 children in my twenties meant I couldn’t go out partying, so that plan, to say the least, did not work out. I am often asked how I ended up working in construction and I always answer with ‘probably the same way you did, I ‘fell’ into it’. Just like most things in my life, I fell into Art College, I fell into doing a PR and journalism degree, I fell into a career in PR and marketing and then I fell into the construction industry. And now I am a voice for my clients who want to be at the forefront of decision makers in the industry.

If I could go back to school and start afresh, it would be nice to know that construction isn’t just for men and actually there are lots of exciting opportunities within the industry. If I knew what an architect’s role was or a Quantity Surveyor’s role was or what a BIM expert was, perhaps my mind-set may have been somewhat different. So how can we ensure that the children of our future know about the construction industry and actually encourage these opportunities? I was invited to an inspiring talk by Mark Farmer at the Chartered Institute of Marketing Construction Industry Group (CIMCIG) debate last week on the ‘Image of Construction’ at the House of Lords. ‘Young people need to be inspired and motivated and we need to achieve a better gender balance’ were just a few of the points addressed to make the industry more attractive.

Farmer also went on to speculate that the term ‘construction industry’ was perhaps maybe now outdated and asked if we should now be addressing it as the ‘built environment’. This is a term, that as an agency, we started to introduce a couple of years ago which sounds more appealing and represents more of a diverse range of prospects.

‘As an industry, how can we change the image of construction? The opportunity here is to be collaborative’ – which was heavily echoed in the Q&A debate from the panel of speakers which included Sadie Morgan of dRMM, Mark Reynolds, Chief Executive of Mace Group, Sam Stacey of Transforming Construction and Jade Lewis of St Gobain Group. Talking to a room full of fellow marketers, Farmer made a plea for better co-ordination, asking for more collaboration to reflect the increasingly high-tech nature of the industry and the solutions it presents to global issues such as climate change and living standards.

Training has been neglected and the skills shortage continues so we need to be working together and reaching out to the schools, colleges and the next generation in general to educate them. Yes, we have a massive industry, and yes it comes with many problems, but it also comes with lots of opportunities to tackle those problems. For people of all ages, gender and backgrounds, this has to be an inspiring prospect. An opportunity to improve lives and help save our planet!

So now what? They say it begins at home. So, every household with children that owns Lego bricks, I’d say that’s a good place to start…