Michael Parker, Associate Director at Gleeds recently won the “Birmingham Young Professional of the Year" (BYPY) award, both for the Property and Construction category and as Overall Winner. The award means that Michael will represent the city as an Ambassador within the sector over the next 12 months, helping to develop and nurture talent in Birmingham.
Here, Michael discusses why it is important for young people to understand the different types of roles available within construction, and also why campaigns such as Gleeds Global Challenge are vital to reducing the current industry skills shortage.
Q: Your achievement of winning the BYPY award represents the dedication and regard you have for the construction industry. Was working in construction something which you had always planned throughout school and university, or was it something that came later?
I had been interested in construction-related professions since school, but my interest was cemented (no pun intended) after an ‘Introduction to Engineering’ course at Cardiff University when I was in Sixth Form. This was a brilliant week and gave me the opportunity to experience a number of engineering disciplines including Civil, Architectural, Environmental, Mechanical and Electrical Engineering.
Q: Tell us about the work you have been doing with students, helping to focus on career choices from an early age. Why is this key to addressing the skills shortage within the industry?
One of the biggest challenges facing construction right now is the skills shortage. Each year more people are leaving the industry compared to those who join it, placing increasing constraints on our capacity to build and demand outweighing supply.
It is crucial to work with schools to ensure that pupils have a greater understanding of the careers available to them in construction, ideally in Key Stage 4 (or earlier) before they go on to Further and Higher Education. Birmingham is set to undergo a huge amount of development over the coming decade and needs the workforce to deliver it, from trades through to consultants and designers.
Q: Your BYPY award win means that you are also taking on an ambassadorial role within the city of Birmingham. What sorts of things will this include?
A key part of the ambassadorial role is maintaining the positive drumbeat – highlighting the significant opportunities for graduates and young people in the city preventing any ‘brain drain’ to the south-east in particular. I am reinforcing this through regular talks at professional services firms and through social media (I have a BYPY ‘vlog’ on YouTube that I post each month). I have also begun developing a sector-focused mentoring programme for young people who want to work within our industry.
Q: How do you think the Gleeds Global Challenge 2017 will help combat the current skills shortage within the industry?
I am excited that Gleeds has made this issue the focus of Gleeds Global Challenge 2017. Our profile in the industry and the success of the campaign in previous years means we have a real opportunity to draw attention to the issue and hopefully encourage more organisations to sit up and actively choose to work with schools in promoting our industry – they can’t afford not to!
Q: If you could bust a myth about the construction industry, what would it be?
It’s not just for brick layers! When I speak with groups of school children this is the first – and sometimes only – job that pupils can think of when asked what careers they know of in the industry. Often it is family members or possibly careers advisors that influence their early career decisions, so hopefully by having a presence in schools and raising the profile of the great careers that are available, we can make a genuine difference to our industry’s future.