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Making the construction industry a career choice is vital to our economic future, says John Elliott, Managing Director of Millwood Designer Homes.

“The future of the construction industry depends on the support it has from within. Just like a home, the foundations need to be solid, consistent and able to stand the test of time. For the construction industry, however, there is concern that we are not doing enough to attract bright, young talent from all walks of life and retain them. In short, the industry is not training up enough, and apprenticeship schemes are not producing enough – more needs to be done.

“Unfortunately, property has been through a bit of a rough patch, to put it mildly. Recessions, coupled with the restrictions on lending, have stifled the property industry and given it a bad name – and we are still trying to recover. People looking for a sustainable job do not see construction as a viable career choice, and societal pressure pushes young people toward higher education rather than technical trade schools. The reality is that a lot of people get into construction by accident, rather than see it as a career choice.

“Obviously, relying on accidents is not a sustainable growth plan for the construction industry. So what can we do?

“For a long time, the construction industry has had a rather hard image, perceived to be an inflexible and unsympathetic environment. It has also been considered a particularly unsafe job, with many sites falling short of standard health and safety protocols.

“Today, with more and more parents both working and juggling family life, you need a working environment that supports that. Flexibility is key.

“It is vital to have a supportive company environment, one that allows your employees to understand the true value of what they do, to give them the opportunity to train and further their qualifications, and most importantly, acknowledge their success. From social to emotional, the support needs to be there in order to encourage an environment that people can see as a viable long-term career.

“I was pleased to read that the Chartered Institute of Building is encouraging people leaving the armed forces to retrain as construction managers. Around 20,000 people leave the armed forces every year and it’s reported that we will need around 17,000 new construction managers over the next four years. With excellent leadership, team-working, project-management and problem-solving skills, both men and women who have served in the military would be a valuable asset.

“On another level, the construction industry is one of the best ways for us to stimulate economic activity, contributing, as we do, £92 billion a year to UK economic output. Last year the UK housebuilding industry built around 140,000 new homes, resulting in £5.5bn spent on suppliers (with 90% staying in the UK), and more than 600,000 jobs, including 3,700 apprentices, 400 graduates and 500 other trainees. From large manufacturers to sole traders, it supports a significant and complex network of supply chains and related activities.

“The target is to be building around 240,000 homes every year, and with the construction industry growing, now is a fantastic time to become involved in our business. From trade skills to management level, there will be plenty of opportunity for those looking to have a secure career. You won’t just be building homes and driving our economy forward, either: you’ll be building what I have learnt to be a very rewarding job.”