Constructing Excellence

Minister for Women Ruth Kelly is reportedly pushing for teenage girls to be sent on to building sites for work experience.

Minister for Women Ruth Kelly is reportedly pushing for teenage girls to be sent on to building sites for work experience.

She believes girls should be given more opportunities to sample "non-traditional" careers in sectors such as construction, because their options are being hampered by poor career advice and stereotyping.

I thought we were in an age where discrimination in the workplace was being wiped out?

A recent report by the Chartered Institute of Building showed a 9% rise in the number of young women entering manual trades. Yet, women still make up less than 10% of the construction workforce, and most of these are in administration.

As employers, those of us in the construction industry are like everyone else. We are not allowed to discriminate on the grounds of sex, race, or even, as of this month, age.

Let us then assume that all stick to these laws, yet we still find a huge gap between the numbers of men and women joining our workforce.

That can only mean one of two things: either significantly fewer women than men want to work in construction, or the male candidates are simply proving better, and therefore more employable, when all things, barring gender, are considered.

I believe the first of these to be the real factor, not least because I have seen many people come into this industry and some of the women are better than some of the men, and vice versa.

We can also throw out the old adage that there are some jobs women aren't strong enough to do. This is the 21st Century and machinery is there.

As Ruth Kelly points out, girls need to be encouraged to consider all types of jobs from an early age, so that a broader view can be taken when choosing options for GCSEs and then A-levels.

Gone are the days when, stereotypically, boys were bought toy digger trucks and girls got ironing boards or vacuum cleaners for Christmas because these are seen as things that will interest them in future life.

When real career advice is given we need to embrace all who show an interest in our industry and nurture the talent of the future.

For more information on Constructing Excellence in the North East contact regional director Catriona Lingwood: (0191) 374-6470 or catriona@constructingexcellence-ne.org.uk

Dave Carney is North Tyneside area leader at Rok.

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