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Why We Shouldn’t Try to Change the Image of Construction

THURSDAY, JUNE 21, 2018

By Letsfixconstruction.com


More items for Good Technical Practice

For as long as I’ve been involved in and around the construction industry, there’s been an underlying consensus that we need to clean up the public's perception of the industry.

Disasters like the Grenfell Tower fire and scandals like the Carillion collapse tend to bring this into sharp focus and we see a renewed energy to show people the positive stuff in construction.

The legitimate worry is that all of the negativity, combined with the image of the stereotypical construction worker, complete with hard hat and hi-vis jacket, will limit our ability to attract younger, smarter, tech-savvy professionals and the must-needed next-generation workforce.

© iStock.com / shih-wei

The legitimate worry is that all of the negativity, combined with the image of the stereotypical construction worker, complete with hard hat and hi-vis jacket, will limit our ability to attract younger, smarter, tech-savvy professionals and the must-needed next-generation workforce.

So, the logical conclusion is to try to push the good stuff even harder.

But perhaps this is the wrong approach.

Unfortunately, the truth is that the public image of the construction industry exists for a reason—it’s mostly accurate.

To portray anything else would be misleading; our industry has huge issues, from top to bottom.

We’re embarrassingly inefficient. Rarely deliver as promised. We overspend. We’re huge polluters. We're wasteful with resources. We put people’s physical health and lives at risk on a daily basis. We have a terrible record regarding mental health among workers. We’re rife with corruption and “old boys'” clubs. We treat women unfairly. We lack any sort of competent leadership. And we’re pretty much the worst of laggards in adopting digital technology.

I could go on.

© iStock.com / flukyfluky

Disasters like the Grenfell Tower fire and scandals like the Carillion collapse tend to bring this into sharp focus and we see a renewed energy to show people the positive stuff in construction.

If we continue to try to put a positive spin on things, or suppress these issues in order to exemplify the glimmers of hope there are within the industry (and don't get me wrong, they do exist), then we’ll end up with another generation of workers who simply knuckle down and accept that this is as good as it gets.

Ironically, shining a light on these shortcomings, by making them painfully transparent to the whole world and by holding our hands up to say “sorry, things aren’t great,” perhaps we can give ourselves the best chance of driving change.

Because everything that’s wrong with our industry is actually what could attract the smartest, most ambitious young professionals and entrepreneurs (and the capital to back them), who see an opportunity to disrupt and rebuild a huge industry.

Yes, we should continue to educate young professionals about the industry, and show them that there are more options to a career in construction than working on a cold, wet building site. But all industries have their stereotypes—that in itself isn't holding us back from change.

But perhaps we should also share with them our biggest failings, and present them as rewarding opportunities for those willing to challenge the status quo.

Not an easy thing to do, but maybe we'd end up with real change, rather than a slightly improved public image.

About the Author

After studying and training as an Architectural Technologist in Edinburgh, Scotland, Darren founded SpecifiedBy.com in 2013 to help architects, contractors and specifiers to research, compare and price building products and materials more efficiently. Since then, the platform has grown to over 50,000 users per month and been supported by some of the United Kingdom's leading technology startup investors. Darren also co-founded Hack_Construct—hackathon events designed to explore the use of digital technologies and business models in the construction industry.

ABOUT THE BLOGGER

Letsfixconstruction.com

Let's Fix Construction is written by a collective group of construction professionals involved in letsfixconstruction.com, an online impartial platform to provide forward-thinking solutions to many longstanding issues that have plagued construction. Organizers and contributors seek to better the industry by sharing knowledge, while creating open and positive communication and collaboration. Many of the posts have appeared first on letsfixconstruction.com and are republished on Durability + Design with permission. Author information is available at the bottom of each blog entry.

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Tagged categories: Education; Worker training

Comment from Michael Halliwell, (6/22/2018, 11:38 AM)

Darren, I think you may be on to something. It's dangerous work (not glamourous in the least), it's hard work, the industry has its shortcomings and bad-apples, we're not politically correct and it's a fair bit of a "boys club", but look at what we have accomplished...now just imagine what could happen with the right people. Might be the type of challenge that could attract idealistic, go-getter types.


Comment from Christopher Perego, (6/25/2018, 8:46 AM)

Darren - I think you are on to something. The construction industry is filled with problem solvers. Drag the problem out into the daylight and challenge those of us that live in this place to figure how to "fix our house."


Comment from Scott Raymond, (7/16/2018, 2:01 PM)

I never allow my Staff to bring me a problem without bringing me the cause of same and three practical solutions, along with the time and cost impact of said solutions. Let's have Darren itemize his well-stated concerns in future articles and use this method, including perceived etiology of said problems.


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