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Racial & gender diversity in construction

Published on: 27 Aug 2009

Harrison Anderson, construction worker

Last month, the construction industry was reminded precisely how overwhelmingly white, male and middle-aged it was.

A study carried out on behalf of the Construction Industry Council revealed that 2% of its workforce came from ethnic minorities and that RICS members were more likely to be over the age of 90 than from the black Caribbean ethnic group.

This report makes a pretty good prima facie case that the industry discriminates against those who have disabilities, come from other ethnic groups or, through no fault of their own, have had a tough start in life. Quite apart from arguments about the ethics of this, the clear implication is that the industry is not making best use of the country’s available labour.

One programme encouraging a more inclusive approach is NET Ambitions, a construction training scheme that was launched on a site in east London last year.

It is open to anyone who is unemployed and is struggling to find work, particularly if they have a disability, learning difficulties or health problem (especially if it was the result of previous construction work).

The scheme was set up by ConstructionSkills and Newco Employment and Training, a careers advisory service based in Newham, east London, with funding from the London Development Agency. In its first year it has attracted 191 clients of whom 17 are on work placements, 25 have been employed by the construction industry and 29 are being trained. However, 103 are still waiting to be placed and the scheme’s project manager says inaccurate perceptions of their skills and abilities could be discouraging construction firms from offering them work experience, or taking them on as employees.

Meet three people whose lives have been transformed by NET in Building's original article Diversity in construction: Transforming lives.