Could An Age-Positive Approach To Scaffolding Ease Recruitment Struggles?

The scaffolding industry, like many others, is facing a significant recruitment crisis. A recent survey conducted by the Confederation of British Industry (CBI), the scaffolding and access sector employed 22,500 workers at the end of 2021 and has been particularly hard hit by labour and skills shortages. The survey also found that the scaffolding industry is one of the worst affected by job shortages in construction, alongside carpenters, welders, and electrical engineers. The Construction Industry Training Board (CITB) announced that the industry is short of about a quarter of a million construction workers, and figures from YouGov indicate that only 3% of youngsters between the ages of 18 and 24 are looking to the construction industry as a profession.  

National Access and Scaffolding Confederation (NASC) recognizes that overcoming labour shortages both now and in the medium-term presents a huge challenge to the whole of construction. To address this issue, NASC has a number of projects and initiatives in place to raise awareness of the benefits of taking up a career in scaffolding to a variety of jobseekers, all of which are aimed at bringing more people into the scaffolding industry.  

But recent studies highlight the tremendous impact of multi-generational workforces on productivity and innovation. For scaffolding businesses, recognizing the potential within older workers is not just a strategic move but a necessity. As England’s workforce undergoes a significant age shift, with over nine million workers aged 50 and over, it’s crucial for employers in the scaffolding industry to embrace and support this valuable demographic. 

The evolving job market presents challenges such as skills and labour shortages, making it even more vital to tap into the potential of older workers. Research indicates that despite the proven benefits of multi-generational teams, older workers often face prejudice and are overlooked, leading to a decline in employment rates after the age of 55. 

To address this issue, the Centre for Ageing Better provides a comprehensive framework tailored for scaffolding businesses aiming to create age-friendly workplaces. Here are the key areas for consideration: 

  1. Cultivate an Age-Friendly Culture: Develop workplace cultures that celebrate age diversity, fostering inclusivity and positivity. Analyse workforce data to ensure equal opportunities for older workers in recruitment, training, and development. 
  1. Age-Positive Hiring Practices: Eliminate biases in recruitment processes to attract the best talent. Refine job advertisements to appeal to a broad age range, avoiding terms that may indicate a preference for younger applicants. Explore practical tools like the Good Recruitment for Older Workers (GROW) project. 
  1. Flexibility in Flexible Working: Recognize the importance of flexible working practices, a critical factor for individuals in their 50s and 60s seeking employment. Actively advertise and communicate available flexible working options, catering to diverse needs and promoting a healthy work/life balance. 
  1. Encourage Lifelong Career Development: Acknowledge that career development is crucial at all ages. Create opportunities for learning and growth through job-shadowing and skill-building initiatives. Support older workers in their quest for continuous development and career progression. 
  1. Prioritize Health Support: Address health-related concerns by providing training for all staff, particularly line managers, to facilitate open conversations about health in the workplace. Ensure that employees feel comfortable disclosing health conditions, allowing for timely support. 

As a testament to the positive impact of these practices, Imperial London Hotels, a family-run business, revamped its approach by removing age-biased language from job ads, implementing flexible working policies, and offering health support. The result? A more age-friendly culture and a workforce where 30% are aged 50 or over. 

There are many ongoing initiatives on inclusivity and wellbeing that are likely to attract a more representative workforce and improve productivity. For example, an 18-month study trailing different models of flexible working – including on site – led by some of the UK’s largest contracting businesses showed no negative impacts on deadlines or budgets and a significant upturn in employee job satisfaction. 

Joining the Age-friendly Employer Pledge is a concrete step for scaffolding businesses to showcase their commitment to valuing and utilizing the skills of older workers. The pledge offers a structured approach, allowing organizations to take one action annually to create a more age-friendly environment. 

By embracing these principles, scaffolding businesses can gain the age-friendly advantage, demonstrating their dedication to harnessing the skills and talents of older workers for the benefit of all.