Young people hesitant to join construction industry over work-life balance concerns

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A report from the Construction Industry Culture Taskforce (CICT) shows that young people are hesitant to join the construction industry due to work-life balance concerns.

Young people are deterred from joining the construction industry because they don’t believe the working hours can deliver them work/life balance, according to a new report released by the Construction Industry Culture Taskforce (CICT).

The report, led by RMIT University, tracks the experiences of 136 NSW trainees who spent two years in the infrastructure construction industry while completing a TAFE course.

The trainees aged between 17 and 23 – both male and female – observed the long hours worked in construction and most said they didn’t believe it was an industry they would choose to work in.

The report shows that 79% of the participants are looking for a job with hours that allow them time for non-work roles and interests, with a low 31% believing they could combine a career in infrastructure with family and social commitments.

Only 26% thought they could combine construction with parenthood, and just 30% believed a job in the industry would give them some control over their work time or would not take them away from home for long periods of time.

“This study, Intention to Pursue a Career in Construction/Infrastructure, demonstrates the gap between what trainees want in a career and what they think the industry has to offer,” says RMIT Distinguished Professor Helen Lingard.

According to Gabrielle Trainor AO, Chair of the Construction Industry Culture Taskforce and Chair of Infrastructure Australia, the findings are especially concerning given the acute shortage of workers available to deliver on the nation’s $237 billion infrastructure pipeline.

“This has serious implications for the industry’s productivity. Skills shortages translate to higher costs. We believe working hours, the dreadful statistics on health and wellbeing and on diversity in construction are interrelated and must be tackled together,” says Construction Industry Culture Taskforce and nfrastructure Australia Chair Gabrielle Trainor AO.

“While it was affirming to hear trainees say they loved working towards a common goal in a team environment, and that they gained great satisfaction from seeing projects come to life, one deterrent came up time and again: the long working hours,” says Construction Industry Culture Taskforce and Infrastructure Australia Chair Gabrielle Trainor AO.

“Construction is in so many ways an exciting and immensely satisfying industry, and if it offered better work-life balance, including more flexible hours, and wherever possible a five-day Monday to Friday week, we would be significantly more likely to attract young people, notably young women.” says Construction Industry Culture Taskforce and Infrastructure Australia Chair Gabrielle Trainor AO.

CICT research shows that 64% of current construction industry workers are working more than 50 hours per week, while 59% say they are unhappy with their work-life balance.

“And we were not surprised to see the NSW Building Commission recently reported that 63% of construction workers surveyed are considering leaving and cited the difficulty in achieving work/life balance as the main reason,” Ms Trainor said.

Working hours wasn’t the only factor identified during the research, according to Jon Davies, CEO of the Australian Constructors’ Association (ACA).

“Trainees also described the importance of respectful workplace relationships, an inclusive, gender-diverse and fair work environment and having career development opportunities as factors in determining where they would work.

“If we fail to act on data such as this, the industry will not be able to attract and retain the diverse range of people it requires to refresh its talent pool,” he said.

“The feedback from the next generation shows us exactly why a new Culture Standard is needed to lift the productivity and performance of construction and secure a productive and sustainable workforce for the future,” Mr Davies said.

Key facts & figures:

Following completion of the trainees’ first rotation, 34% of trainees indicated they would like to pursue a career in infrastructure construction, while 64% were undecided.

After trainees had completed their second rotation, the job characteristics identified as being very important reflected the three pillars of the Culture Standard:

  • 74% of trainees listed respectful workplace relationships and an inclusive, gender-diverse and fair work environment as a factor in determining where they would work in future, yet only 35% of respondents felt the infrastructure construction industry offered them this type of workplace.
  • 79% of the study’s participants are seeking a job with hours that align with their non-work roles and interests, with a low 31% of respondents believing that a career in infrastructure construction offers hours that don’t interfere with their family and social commitments.
  • 26% of trainees said they believed a career in infrastructure construction could be combined with parenthood, while just 30% believe a job in the industry gives them some control over their work time or would not take them away from family for long durations.

Source: © Construction Industry Culture Taskforce 2024

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