Demand for construction workers is approaching a 20-year high, yet a shortage of skilled labour could seriously threaten the industry. Many young people don’t see construction as an attractive career proposition, and low awareness of job opportunities means we’re facing a huge skills gap. However, at Arcadis we know how diverse and exciting a career in the built environment can be. Whether we’re designing and building resilient and adaptable places for people to live and work, developing innovative ideas to tackle climate change, or envisaging our future transport infrastructure, there are innumerable opportunities to have a positive impact in shaping the future. And, for us, a vital first step in attracting new talent to the industry is helping to raise the profile of STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) qualifications in schools and colleges around the country.
Arcadis is committed to working with young people through skills-based volunteering and local education engagement to promote learning and career opportunities in STEM-related industries all around the UK.
In the West Midlands, we have been working with Ahead Partnership, which connects employers with education, public and private sector partners to help drive social and economic change. As part of this, we spent a day coaching and mentoring 44 students from Great Barr Academy as they became engineers, planners and developers for the day.
Funded by corporate sponsor the Millennium Point Trust, teams worked on a real-life brief focused on the regeneration of the Perry Barr area in north Birmingham. It is expected that the level of planned investment in housing, transport, public realm and community facilities in and around Perry Barr will act as a catalyst for the wider regeneration of the area.
Many of the students live in Perry Barr, and for them it was a unique insight into the world of masterplanning, engineering, transport planning and other areas of the industry. They worked through a series of bespoke workshops with volunteers from Arcadis, who helped them to develop their ideas and gain a better understanding of the breadth of careers available on a regeneration scheme.
The students were also able to experiment with Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality software to understand how these emerging technologies are being used in the built environment industry. They then presented their ideas for the regeneration of Perry Barr to a selection of industry judges. The team that best met the brief won.
The students were all given a unique opportunity to reflect on the skills they had developed through the challenge. They were able to find out about different career paths, such as apprenticeships, as well as contributing a valuable perspective on plans for their local area.
We’ve found that working with schools in this way is an effective way to help increase attainment, raise aspirations and improve inclusivity. Feedback has been overwhelmingly positive, with 97% reporting that they now had a better understanding of career options in the built environment, and nearly three quarters of participants saying they were now more likely to consider a career in STEM.