Construction Youth Trust is playing the long game – By Charlotte Higgins

Getting in early and inspiring the next generation – Construction Youth Trust is playing the long game.

Construction Youth Trust was established 60 years ago as the construction industry’s own charity. How we implement our strategy has changed over the past six decades, but our aim has always remained the same: to inspire young people about careers in construction and the built environment and help them to break down barriers and achieve their full career potential.

Industry, as a whole, is well aware of the current skills shortage, the lack of incoming new entrants and the negative misconceptions bandying around about life in the construction and built environment sector, but what can we do to solve our problems?

One of the ways that the Trust is helping to combat our industry’s recruitment and image issues is by actively engaging with young people at an early stage. In 2016 we began thinking about our work in a newly critical way. We recognised the value and impact of working with young people once they had made their A-level choices or had fallen out of education, employment or training (NEET), but felt there was more that could be done. The Careers & Enterprise Company in their 2016 research paper Moments of Choice talk about the ‘moments of choice’ in a young person’s career journey. The first ‘hard moment of choice’ for a young person is at the age of 13/14 when they pick their GCSE options. We realised that we needed to be present in the career conversation before and during the decision-making point, rather than joining in at a later date and effectively trying to change a young person’s mind about their chosen career aspirations. We needed to engage with young people earlier, inspiring them about the diverse range of industry careers, to both recruit top talent and inspire those at risk of becoming NEET to reengage with their studies, and achieve their full career potential.

So how does the Schools Partnership strategy achieve earlier and effective engagement? We concentrate on creating long-term relationships with schools and FE Colleges to engage young people at an early age, from Year 7 to Year 13, to help them break down barriers to employment and inspire them about the breadth of careers in the construction and built environment industry. For those students we meet in Year 7, we will be able to engage with them over their full school career, offering tailored support and opportunities along the way. All our school sessions and courses link to the national curriculum, contextualise learning with real world application and help schools to achieve the recently set out Gatsby benchmarks for good career guidance in schools.   

Instrumental to the success of the effectiveness of our engagements is the participation of our industry volunteers who lend their passion and knowledge to the sessions enhancing the students’ experience. Acting as one voice for industry, we facilitate a seamless relationship between industry and schools from which both parties benefit. We reduce the ‘noise’ coming into schools, providing a single channel of communication between industry and schools which results in the wider built environment sector engaging with young people in a strategic and effective manner.

Not only do the volunteers bring our industry to life in school sessions, they are also a direct link to opportunities and employment within the sector. The ability to work with our industry partners to identify real pathways into employment for the young people we work with is crucial to the success of our strategy. Creating awareness of industry careers is only beneficial to young people (and industry) if it is backed up by actual employment opportunities such as apprenticeships and first jobs.

By working long-term in place-based hubs, the Trust is able to identify a pipeline of employment and training opportunities, and highlight them to young people while they’re still at school.

We select our hub localities based on two factors. The first is the extent to which an area is affected by multiple deprivation (such as high levels of unemployment or in-work poverty, low skills, youth unemployment etc.).The second factor looks at whether industry has a long-term demand for skills in the area; will there be local employment opportunities available for an 11 year old starting at secondary school in 8 years’ time at the end of their school career?

During the first year of the Schools Partnership strategy, we’ve already seen a huge shift in our young people’s attitudes towards industry. We engaged over 7,000 young people, 93% of whom said the sessions increased their knowledge of industry careers and 74% said they were more interested in pursuing a career in the sector. By introducing young people to industry at an early age and inspiring them about the available careers, we hope to help industry combat its recruitment challenges and also help all young people discover viable and dynamic careers. The focus of the Trust has always been two-fold; inspiring young people about industry careers AND helping them break down barriers to employment.

We think industry is beginning to answer the need to take action. We are incredibly proud to be collaborating with an array of industry partners and organisations who are helping turn words into action.




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