Glasgow School for Business and Society
The innovation comes in the form of a comprehensive, supportive, training, work placement and employment programme for females wishing to use their skills and build a career in the construction industry in Scotland. By linking with colleges and job centres, the organisation finds women looking to pursue a career in the sector, and provides them with apprentice-like education and training that develops them to a level where they can secure permanent employment and pursue a career in the sector.
The inspiration for this female-led construction community interest company (CIC) came from the organization’s creator, solicitor Ms Shalinay Raghavan. While completing a research project for the Scottish Government in 2012, Shalinay was shocked to discover that only 2% of Scotland’s 265,000 construction industry employees were female. The reasons for this were a male-dominated culture, and gender discrimination. She therefore decided to tackle this issue personally and set up a company offering a program that focuses purely on helping women become an important part of the construction workplace. Building Futures was created in August 2015.
Having established that gender discrimination and occupational segregation are dominant cultures within the construction industry, Shalinay decided to contribute to efforts to increase the number of women developing careers in STEM subjects (science, technology, engineering and mathematics). What struck her was that there had been few initiatives that enable women to develop a career in the construction industry, particularly in the skilled trades such as joinery, plumbing and plastering. The earnings potential for skilled trades operatives in construction can be £10-15 per hour higher than unskilled or administrative positions, which females are currently occupying in the industry.
Working with government agencies including Skills Development Scotland, as well as third sector and private sector partners, Building Futures have established a person-centred employability programme which not only recruits and provides trade skills training for females, but also brokers them in to the workplace, thereby giving them the opportunity to gain valuable practical experience.
Shalinay Raghavan is the Managing Director of Building Futures Scotland. She is a lawyer by profession, spent many of her early years involved in voluntary work, and has a strong desire to help others in need. She has worked with several large socially-minded organisations such as the Princes Trust, and is very passionate about about equality issues.
Building Futures has already started to change perceptions in the sector, by successfully placing its first female recruits in the industry. This has impacted on the lives of these individuals, and has also in turn begun the process of changing the culture within the industry. An evaluation of Building Futures’ initial success has informed the development of new government-supported schemes designed to assist females getting into construction. The traditional emphasis on funding the 16 to 19 age range has now shifted, since numerous studies indicate that women often want to enter construction at a later age. These schemes are now opening access to women aged up to the age of 30, in line with the notion of 'lifelong learning' and 'leaving no-one behind'.
The impact of Building Futures’ employability program is evidenced by the successes of recruits acquiring construction trade skills and securing positions in the sector previously hard to access for women. Examples of success stories to date include:
(1) an unemployed woman on benefits aged 58 [from Renfrewshire] who is fit and healthy and wanted to work, but had no path to a job, let alone a career in construction. She has been supported by Building Futures to set up her own handywoman business;
(2) a woman aged 38 [from Renfrewshire] who completed a three-year site carpentry course at college and had previously been unable to secure an adult apprenticeship or employment in the construction sector. Building Futures brokered her into a joinery apprenticeship with a national house builder.
(3) A 34-year-old single mum [from Ayrshire] with a physical disability and dyslexia. She had encountered prejudice throughout her life and consequently struggled to gain access to education and employment. Building Futures helped her secure employment with a local leisure business, carrying out a variety of small repair and maintenance work.
Impact of the innovation on the environment: Shalinay has confirmed that Building Futures is environmentally aware and will pursue environmental building projects in the future.
Given that the company is at an early stage of trading and training, the short-term impacts of the company have been relatively small - but show enormous promise. The company has piloted their program successfully with Skills Development Scotland and have a lot of connections with construction organisations looking for new talent. Shalinay also visits local schools to educate younger children about the construction industry, and to change perceptions of younger girls in order to convince them that it is not an industry just for men. This attitude change is necessary for investing in the young of the local community and planting a seed which may grow in the future.
The long-term aims for Building Futures are to help to significantly increase the level of females employed in the construction sector from its current 2%, as well as change the dynamics of women in the construction work environment and eliminate the barriers that women currently face. Shalinay feels that this requires a major multi-agency push to ideally increase this percentage from 2% to 20 % within the next ten years. She is actively collaborating with companies in the sector, sectoral bodies, and education and skills training agencies.
This aim will involve not only training and placing women in construction roles, but also a significant change in the current culture within the construction industry to create a more balanced and therefore healthier environment.
What concrete evidence suggests that there has been an impact?
There is already concrete evidence that the programme is working, with six trainees being either successfully placed into the workplace or involved in the successful completion of short-term building work contracts following their training by the organisation. As the company develops this programme its impact will increase, and individuals, construction companies and the local community and wider society will all continue to be positively affected. Building Futures will also help to impact, even if at a small level, on the gender imbalance within the skilled trades of the construction industry.
Building Futures Scotland has developed an innovative model for the training and development of women to integrate into the workforce in the construction industry. Success to date shows that their new approach in developing this can be successful and will create a new avenue to increase the available workforce. Building Futures looks at the wider issues and recognizes that there is a severe skills shortage facing the construction sector in the next five years (due to a skills shortage carried over from the downturn created by the 2008 recession following the financial crash, and a declining population of tradesmen due to retire). There is a massive skilled person gap looming within the construction industry in Scotland. Building Futures believes that this there is a clear solution to this issue: by addressing the lack of gender equality and supporting more women into the sector, Building Futures could help to address this skills gap
The organization aims to produce an increase in the numbers of females working in skilled trades positions within the construction industry in Scotland, with this industry in the manual and technical trades, being only 2% female. Building Futures is addressing this gender issue directly by recruiting women who have a desire to be involved in this industry but have no career path. By training them and supporting them through practical work experience Building Futures eventually provide construction companies with a valuable, competent, experienced employee, who happens to be female. The gender equality issue is further impacted by Building Futures involvement in changes of perceptions at education and schools level, and in working with UK government funded agencies and to expand the availability of training funding for women into construction to a wider age gap.
Ms Shalinay Raghavan, Director, Building Futures
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Business Website: http://www.building-futures.org.uk
Year Founded: 2015
Number of Employees: 11 to 50