2021 is the Year of Diversity in Trade

The traditional views on gender are being left in the past, according to surveys which indicate the public’s perception towards household roles. In 1984, 42 per cent of people stated that men should provide the main source of income for a family. By 2019, this had decreased to only eight per cent.

This perception of gender is being resolved through the growing acceptance of diversity and equality in the workplace. Gender has been an obstruction for many women entering trade and construction roles, where age, disability, and race have also disadvantaged prospective workers. The workplace must herald an environment of acceptance for all workers. Today, we are impressed by the vast number of diverse workers with stories to share about their experience in the sector. Here, we explore individuals who can be considered as leaders in a growing and diverse industry, and why we need more diverse voices in the sector in 2021.

Breaking through a rock-solid industry

The world of construction was taken by storm by one young female quarry worker, Emily Burridge. Starting in an apprenticeship scheme, Burridge has excelled in what is typically considered a male-orientated industry. Showing why the sector must recognise the talents and benefits of diverse roles, she achieved the status of quarry manager by the age of 22. While showing that gender should not be a limiting factor in the construction sector, she also champions the case for age equality in the workplace. After working on 25 quarries, Burridge replaced a man who was of retirement age. Now, though her staff are mostly older men, she has no trouble integrating with the workforce and leading her team.

Super working abilities

As Emily proves, apprenticeship schemes are accessible entry points for anyone looking to land a job in the lucrative construction industry. Businesses are using apprenticeships to develop skills and reward workers for dedication. One apprentice scaffolder, Todd Scanlon, is proving his vocation and surpassing any obstacles placed in his way. Scanlon, who has Down’s Syndrome, says that he always wanted to work in scaffolding. After talking to a local company, his determination was rewarded with a permanent position on the team.

His enthusiasm was noticed, winning him On The Tools’ prestigious ‘UK’s Best Apprentice’ award in 2019. Martyn Coles, of Coles Scaffolding, says that the apprentice has more than proven his skill and willingness to learn over and over again: “I think it’s mainly because it is thought people with a disability shouldn’t be in our industry. He’s just shown that you can do it with the right guidance. He’s just a likeable guy.”

Todd has proven that nothing gets in the way of work. Diversifying a team can help to make the workplace a better environment for all workers.

Promoting race diversity

While there is a growing diversity of races within the UK construction industry, there is still evidence of an under-representation of ethnic workers across many businesses. One index by Business in the Community found that despite ethnic minority groups making up 14 per cent of the population, in the construction sector only 3.4 per cent of managers have an ethnic background.

Anjali Pindoria is a project surveyor. While she says there are still difficulties, she welcomes the change that the construction sector is experiencing: “There are now more platforms where I can go and share my experiences on panels and speaking events. It’s about educating people and telling people to be more inclusive towards BAMEs, in order to start to change mindsets.

“As for who my role models are — they are my dad Chem Naran and my uncle Avi Kara. I have seen them graft from being carpenters to directors, and you can see how they’ve pushed against every barrier that they’ve had.”

Pindoria believes that a more diverse group can help to create a better product, which is key to encouraging the promotion of minority groups within the sector to achieve equality.

What next?

The construction industry must continue its efforts to promote diversity and equality in the workplace to ensure its future success. The unique experience of individuals allows for new perspectives to enter and improve businesses.

Richard Walker from SkipHire UK, who provides skip hire Birmingham services, agrees that this is exactly what these industries need: “For too many years the industry has suffered from a negative perception and reputation creating a stigma that has acted as a barrier to entry to a more diverse talent pool of workers. As innovation and technology play their part in modernising ways of working in the sector, together with schemes such as apprenticeships, we’re not only seeing a more diverse workplace, but a more talented, skilled, and varied workforce.”

The construction sector must keep fighting for underrepresented groups in the industry, building a platform for them to progress and voice their ideas. While there is still a long way to go, it is encouraging to see the voices of people who breakthrough into an industry that has been dominated by white males for years. In 2021, construction leaders should encourage a culture that is accepting of everyone in order to improve their business and their work.

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