The recent issues surrounding A-Level exam results and the ensuing furore over the algorithm used has left many young people feeling confused about their future. It seems that young people may be the hardest hit in terms of future employment and economic stability in the aftermath of the Coronavirus pandemic.

Lucy Lee, Contracts Manager at Land & Water Group, is part of a team which is spearheading career opportunities for young people, and discusses what the organisation is doing to support the next generation.

The civil engineering and construction industries have largely remained in operation during the lockdown period and although we have had to implement new guidelines to ensure social distancing and have dealt with merchants closing down, the sector has continued to trade strongly.

Now, it is clearer than ever that our industries are vital when it comes to regenerating the country’s economy, proving to be an integral part of the country’s needs whilst providing a stable career path that could safeguard the future of the younger generation.

One of the many benefits a career in civil engineering has is that there are various pathways into the industry that do not discriminate – something pivotal at this moment in time when students are worrying about exam grades and future education.

There are opportunities for graduate jobs that develop existing knowledge created by attending university or many firms, like ours, offer apprenticeship schemes.  These schemes provide a vocational way of learning that progresses career options, and a variety of transferrable skills whilst providing the incentive of being paid at the same time.

During this current period, when we consider the mental stresses the nation is going through, it is important that young people understand the options available to them and the sectors that can provide a safe future without risk of financial collapse or unemployment.

With retirement age due to rise to 67, between 2026 and 2028, young people will be expected to work for at least 50 years and with this comes immense pressure to find the most successful and reliable career – a decision that seems too important to make by a 16/17 year old.

If you then add on the ideals of social media combined with the angst of growing up, this is a lot of stress to put young people under. It is vital we provide guidance during these life changing times.

I have recently had the pleasure of welcoming, and supporting, four new apprentices to the Land & Water team as part of our commitment towards creating a healthier and safer environment for the future generation.

Apprenticeships, within the construction and engineering industries, allow for involvement in all job aspects, from HR and project management to on-site visits, providing a ‘try before you buy’ type career. Apprenticeships immerse young people into the sector, allowing them to experience which field they would like to specialise in without making decisions in haste.

However, according to government statistics, in the first two quarters of the 2019/2020 academic year there were just over 200,000 apprentices, in England, and only 60,000 of these were in the engineering and construction sector, a decrease of 1,500 from the previous year.

With The Recruitment and Employment Confederation also predicting that the construction industry is growing at a rate which will see the need for workers outweighing the number of trained professionals, we have a duty of care, as industry leaders, to raise awareness of our workplace advantages and cement our sector at the forefront of young people’s minds.

What’s more, I think it’s also important to reiterate that the construction and engineering industries are moving away from the male dominated stigma and becoming increasingly diversified. Female employees have doubled to 50,000 over the past decade, making apprenticeships and job roles more appealing to young women.

As a woman and part of the 1m working in a STEM role, I actively encourage the next female generation to consider a profession within these sectors.

As we see young people returning to education, we have to be mindful that they may be feeling anxious towards the new guidelines that have been put in place.

Some will have to wear masks, in areas under lockdown regulations, whilst others will be maintaining social distancing rules, making their education experience completely different to what they were previously accustomed to.

When you also take into consideration the current economic climate, I’m sure many are apprehensive about whether they will be able to create a stable income or career after they have worked incredibly hard during their school years.

These many life changes can cause immense pressure and worry for young people and so I think it is first and foremost more important, at this time, to continue to support and guide the next generation.”

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