Encouraging young people in the construction industry



Adam Baxter 

Author: Adam Baxter, Construction Project Manager at Placemakers, NZIOB YPA Committee Chair and National Board member 2020-2022, NZIOB Southern Region Committee member

I was recently involved in an industry competition where a speaker put to a group of young people that – “The construction industry has a carbon problem and it’s up to your generation to do something about it”.

Unfortunately, the delivery wasn’t followed up with some encouragement.

In construction, we are well inducted into the cult of worrying.  We dedicate time and energy towards consideration of exactly how things could go wrong, with the focus on “what shouldn’t” be done, rather than “what should”. Construction is a “serious” business, it’s complex, its’ hazardous and its expensive. A project then, becomes a problem to solve, and all parties do whatever it takes to get out the other end alive.

You can’t argue with the necessity of the industry, but here’s the catch: You can’t make a mistake.

2023 will mark the end of my first decade in construction and now more than ever I feel this age of anxiety we live in seeping its way into our work.

The stakes are always high in the construction industry. But do we have a grasp on the stakes? And are we in agreement on them?

What does the optimum sacrifice one can make at the altar of the built environment look like? Are fear and pressure our most effective motivators towards positive, broader outcomes?

The flickering light of progress is faint in the distance. To keep going, one needs to believe it’s worth it, and be fueled by encouragement.

Those who have a ‘why’, can bear any ‘how’. So, I’m wondering what our collective efforts are aiming towards?

In a complicated field of specialists and technicians, we are in need of good leadership. Whether or not my generation have been trained well enough or are as ready as can be to face the challenges that lay ahead, we will have to step up to the plate all the same. So surely the risk in not sincerely encouraging young people in construction is greater than anything else at stake in the industry.

I love building. For me there’s nothing as sweet as working hard with people whose skills you can appreciate, who’s dedication you can rely on and collectively being proud of what’s delivered at the end of the day.

Joining together in a rallying call to young leaders and investing in encouragement is how we attract and retain the best, it’s how we make our offering.

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