Apprenticeship data from the CITB shows the number of female apprentices joining the industry has increased year on year since 2016. This is supported by Housebuilder Redrow’s annual apprentice report which identified 1 in 4 young women seeing construction as a possible career path, an increase from the previous year. At the same time, the total number of apprenticeship starts has decreased from a figure close to 500,000 in 2016/2017 to a forecasted 374,000 in 2021/2022. Whilst the increasing number of women taking apprenticeships up in the industry is a positive (the number of women starting a construction related apprenticeship has almost tripled since 2016), the number of males has also increased, thus making the ratio of male: female apprentices broadly similar.
What is less clear, is both the number of females completing apprenticeships and remaining in the industry. Labour Force Survey data for 2021, broken down by occupation within construction, records a number of manual occupations where no females are reported employed in that area. This includes trades such as bricklaying, carpentry and joinery and scaffolding and whilst these figures have been rounded, it is indicative of how few women there are in these particular trades that there are insufficient numbers to record.
Whilst it can be difficult to build up an overall picture of the industry as a whole to understand both numbers leaving the industry and the contributing reasons, this is crucial to further improving the gender balance figures. Is retention within the industry more of an issue for males, females or broadly similar across gender? Will further visibility and analysis of this data help to understand whether those issues which affect retention are gender specific? Much focus is often placed on the importance of initial engagement to encourage entry into a career or industry. However, this is only the beginning. Maintaining levels of engagement throughout employment rather than just at role commencement stage is key to retaining the best talent. Some interesting research undertaken on behalf of the CITB for their work on rethinking recruitment, identified that those working within the industry were more likely to have a positive view of the industry compared to those from outside. This would suggest that positive engagement within the industry would support strong retention. However, some recent analysis by Noble Francis of the CPA shows an increase, particularly in the self-employed moving out of the industry. This is of significant concern when Build UK report that 53,000 new entrants are needed into the construction industry every year in order to maintain required output.