A range of companies and trade bodies have launched a new coalition to promote diversity in the construction industry.
The Construction Inclusion Coalition (CIC) has been established by chief executives at nine product manufacturers and building suppliers and two trade bodies: Aliaxis, Baxi, Bradfords, City Plumbing, Ibstock, Knauf, Travis Perkins, Wavin, Wolseley, the Builders Merchants Federation (BMF) and the National Merchant Buying Society.
The founders represent more than 250,000 workers in total. The new body aims to raise sector standards on equity, diversity and inclusion. It will focus on gender representation in its first year.
The coalition is being launched alongside new data that shows that only one third (36 per cent) of British people would feel confident that their female family or friends would be safe and respected if they joined the construction industry.
The research of over 2,000 adults also outlines the opportunity for recruitment in the sector, with nearly half of respondents (46 per cent) saying they would be more likely to actively seek out employment opportunities in the construction industry if it demonstrated a stronger commitment to diversity and inclusion.
Angela Rushforth, CIC chair and managing director of Toolstation, a subsidiary of Travis Perkins, said: “There is no doubt that the future of our industry is at risk if we don’t create an environment where all our colleagues feel safe, empowered and confident.”
She added: “I want all young women to see the construction sector as I do – full of opportunity. We aren’t attracting and retaining from a diverse pool of talent, because many think the construction sector is not for them.
“These are industry-wide challenges that require industry-wide solutions, which is why the CIC has been set up to improve equity, diversity and inclusion. We are calling on businesses across the sector – no matter how big or small – to join our coalition and commit to taking action in their organisations.”
The construction sector has one of the most rapidly ageing workforces in the UK, with research from the the Construction Industry Training Board showing that close to a million construction workers – around a third of the industry’s workforce – are set to retire in the next 10 years.
The industry is currently made up of only 15 per cent women and 6 per cent from ethnic minority backgrounds, according to the Office for National Statistics, and it faces challenges attracting and recruiting from a diverse pool of talent.
The coalition is urging businesses across the industry to join the initiative and take its Built on Better pledge.
The pledge has seven areas that members commit to working on. Organisations will work together to enhance the impact of their individual equity, diversity and inclusion initiatives by fostering collaboration and establishing a network to share knowledge and resources across the industry, and co-create solutions that will make a difference. Progress will be tracked annually and shared in a public report.
The coalition has been endorsed by the Construction Leadership Council (CLC). CLC co-chair and Mace chief executive Mark Reynolds said: “It is clear that ensuring a consistent approach to equity, diversity and inclusion will be vital for the future of construction,” adding that the CLC was “pleased to support the CIC”.
He said: “There is much work to be done. However, I am confident that by sharing knowledge and raising standards we can make a meaningful impact across the sector.”
Ibstock manufacturing management trainee Isabella Walsh added: “I totally understand other women’s concerns about working in construction – I had them myself before I joined as a trainee manufacturing manager.
“But my colleagues have been so welcoming, many are now good friends. Although things have changed for the better in the last few years, we need businesses in construction to come together to accelerate this change, which is why I think the CIC is so important.”
The coalition will be launched at the BMF annual conference at the Birmingham NEC on 21 September.