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Can we find this sort of joy in construction?

Posted: 5th October 2016

Mark Wray

Lead Technologist - Built Environment

Innovate UK

I would like to think that this image (left) has captured this young persons elation as he realises his idea has been recognised as the "best" and that this presents a springboard to a career as scientist or engineer.

Does the construction sector have the potential to engender such a response in the younger generation?

He was a winner at the TeenTech Awards this summer, and it was my pleasure to hear an inspiring presentation from TeenTech Events CEO, Ms Maggie Philbin (yes the owner of ludicrously big hair do's in the 80's and who brought us great insight in to tomorrows technology). Since 2008 Maggie has been running this NFPO TeenTech, which helps young teenagers see the wide range of career possibilities in Science, Engineering and Technology.

Maggie's presentation was given as the key note speech for the CIC's Construction Industry Summit 2016. Maggie captivated the audience with her insights on how to engage with and recruit tomorrows talent. Communication is clearly a big challenge - not only in terms of the content but also in the method.

Tomorrows talent pool will be quite adept at digital communication - my return from the summit sat me adjacent to three teenagers, who spent much of the train journey texting each other instead of speaking. But Maggie advised that simply having a glossy website and hoping they will find you was not likely to succeed. First you need to capture their interest in what is the possible, what does it offer them - and most of this direction comes form their parents. Then they will research and find out more - most likely on line. As an industry we need to do better in showcasing what we offer - digging holes and wearing hi-viz are a definite turn off. Being creative, making a difference, working in dynamic project teams, being respected and well rewarded - these are appealing and as an industry we need to convey this.

Maggie's advice was:

  • Make tech roles visible and better understood
  • When recruiting seek the key qualities needed for the future [see below]
  • Align your CSR activities with your company business
  • Set up on-going relationships with local schools, colleges and universities to provide work experience and work placements
  • Offer quality apprenticeships – collaborating where necessary to offer a wide range
  • Become a school governor
  • Sponsor as well as mentor
  • Volunteer with organisations like TeenTech, Code Club, WISE

Maggie advised that progressive companies are seeking more than just academic qualifications from their next generation of talent, they see the following as key qualities:

  • Creativity
  • Bold thinking
  • Collaboration
  • Life- long learning
  • Adaptability
  • Tenacity

Finally, I am a volunteer mentor and judge with TeenTech. In my day job I undertake assessments of applications for investment for a wide range of organisations. I can honestly say that being a judge for TeenTech is every bit if not more rewarding - freed from naysayer constraints, the teams creativity, innovation and drive is inspiring. I was privileged to review a wide range of ideas to solve our grandest of challenges. Whilst some may well have been flights of fancy or defied the laws of physics, others were near market ready and one I would have happily returned a cheque with my assessment for an equity share! Who couldn't do with some of that sort of talent in their organisation?

Mark Wray, Innovate UK, National Platform for the Built Environment, Innovate UK (Technology Strategy Board)