STEMming the tide

Construction firms should be doing more to attract young people taking STEM subjects at school says Beam Development’s Dan Grimshaw

It’s no secret that the industry is facing a huge skills shortage over the next five years and the industry urgently needs to attract fresh blood if it is to continue to flourish. It is currently struggling with the worst staff shortages since the late 1990s amid the rush to reopen from lockdown and a sharp drop in overseas workers as a result of Covid-19 and Brexit.

In fact, a report published by the Construction Skills Network in June 2021 predicted the construction sector will need 216,800 new workers by 2025 to meet demand. In addition, we currently have an ageing workforce. As workers reach retirement age, fewer people are entering the industry to replace them, meaning that the sector is experiencing a shortage of young talent.

Although the order books may be full now, for the industry to prosper post-Brexit it must do more to sell itself to young people while they are still in secondary education to attract the school leavers and graduates of the future.

With this in mind, Beam Development is holding what I hope will be a series of educational visits to the company’s construction sites, inviting a group of physics students from Harris Sixth Form in East Dulwich, London to visit a new build eco-friendly home in nearby Forest Hill.

Behind the hoardings

When I walk past a building site, I’m always trying to get a look through the cracks in the hoardings to see what is going on. Mostly construction sites are suspicious of onlookers, and essential health and safety protocols mean they are generally inaccessible. In reality, behind those closed doors hides a plethora of exciting, interesting and innovative activity. The range of materials and processes on a construction site is enormous, and so many specialists are key to the overall project.

I hope the visits will spark the imagination of the students and give them an insight into some real-world activity. After the first visit, they asked some excellent questions and started some really interesting debate, so we are looking forward to meeting the next group of students.

Harris Sixth Form physics teacher Ben Hodgson, who accompanied the group, said learning more about specialists with STEM skills who contribute towards the final innovation of buildings was a real eye-opener for his students. “Seeing the different innovations that go into designing, materials, manufacturing and testing modern construction techniques and products made them aware of the multi-disciplinary and diverse careers that constitute modern construction and design.

“In terms of their STEM studies, the students saw first-hand how innovation in design, technology and the science behind those technologies is making a tangible difference outside of a traditional laboratory setting.

“It was fascinating to learn just how much technology and science goes into constructing new buildings and meeting challenges around energy usage, airflow, planning regulations and the thermal profile of the building at the same time as creating a well-designed space.”

I believe that we could and should be doing more to woo young people taking STEM subjects at school to our amazing industry.

Find out more about the initiative at



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