Opinion

Vox pop: Should the industry do more to retain and hire older workers?

6 April 2017

James Paviour, senior manager, The Management Recruitment Group

I don’t think that ageism exists per se across construction. Construction is complex and as a result clients look for experience. Having a number of projects under your belt and seeing things from start to finish are the positives of experience. There is no way to shortcut experience.

Having said that, we have an ageing “management” population and that is a big issue for many company leaders. We also have a hole in succession plans from the hiring freezes of the protracted financial crisis. These issues can lead to biased decision-making in hiring plans.

Israil Bryan, diversity and social programme manager, Skanska UK

With the current skills shortage there is a significant focus on recruiting new talent, with a real emphasis naturally placed on interns, trainees, apprentices and graduates.

But we need to get the balance right, ensuring that we attract and retain older and more experienced people too.

We have five generations in our workforce and this brings great diversity. We maximise the wealth of knowledge from our older workforce, through mentoring programmes and technical steering groups. As our people look towards retirement, we offer reduced-hours and flexible working – which helps them to transition and us to retain valuable skills and knowledge that can be passed onto the next generation.

Stephen Wielebski FCIOB, principal consultant, W A Consultancy

Sadly, there are too few companies that have taken a positive approach and put in place effective transitional arrangements that have allowed experienced construction people to be retained beyond retirement age and for their experience and skills to be capitalised on.

In management terms, we should ignore age as a constraint and make the inherent strength of an inclusive workforce productive.

Alex MacLaren, senior director of studies for architectural engineering, Heriot Watt University, and director of education at Teambuild UK

The traditional apprenticeship model of a seasoned expert passing on skills to a trainee still exists more clearly on many construction sites than it does in other industries.

Old and young gain a lot from working alongside each other and sharing skills. With the very real prospect of four generations in the workplace, we need to work with that. But perhaps our education and training systems need to evolve somewhat to meet this changing marketplace and better support all ages.

Mike Smith MCIOB, managing director, Corniche Builders

We have a vast ageing workforce and while modern methods are flourishing the basics are not being taught and the knowledge bank that exists is being left untapped. We will be in a situation where skills and knowledge are lost. We should encourage the retention of those people and add them to the "diversity" list – which we used to call equal opportunities and there is legislation in place for.

Ed Hoad, managing director, Catalyst Executive Search

From a pure construction recruitment view I think there seems to be a real appetite to hire and push good young people forward in the industry. They are being given more work and projects to manage faster. But on the flipside of that you do sometimes need people with the background only age and experience can bring.

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