As you will probably be aware, the UK has an ageing population, it is well documented and often is mentioned in relation to employment statistics and job availability. How does this age demographic impact with taking on operatives to work with National Drilling Services in the field of drilling and sawing? In this article we discuss the challenges of recruiting a new generation of operatives whilst maintaining our knowledge and skill levels from those experienced and more mature workers. The labour market is ever challenging with changes accelerated due to the impact of Brexit and the Covid-19 pandemic.
Appealing to potential employees
In recent decades many labourers and skilled physical workers have originated from the European Union, with a big influx of Polish workers in particular. With the change in border controls and less freedom of movement since the implementation of Brexit, this is another pool of potential employees which has become less accessible. In fact, migration has been a considerable factor in the UKs population growth since the 1990s. It is too early to know how much Brexit will impact on these statistics.
Covid 19 pandemic and the impact on the workforce
Our standard working arrangements have all been severely disrupted over the last year or so due to the pandemic. This has made it impossible for students to gain work experience, with minimal numbers of people actually travelling to the office and workplaces and no extra visitors allowed onto sites. Some of the older members of the workforce across UK construction sites have been more susceptible to the virus sometimes forcing earlier retirement than planned exacerbating the loss of experience and skills. In some cases even resulting in loss of life all together. Education has also been greatly disrupted and it is unclear at this stage how this may impact on employment in the longer term. The pandemic has also actively encouraged the digital world with almost everything going virtual. Whilst this has been a life line to many and enabled contact with friends and family when otherwise it would have been impossible, it has increased the amount of screen time for us all potentially encouraging teenagers in particular to be completely reliant on this form of communication and contact.
The UK ageing demographics
The ageing population of the UK means that there are more people reaching retirement than joining the workforce. Inevitably as skilled operatives retire they take with them years of experience and knowledge that you cannot easily replace. Bringing in apprentices allows the youngsters and new employees to work alongside those coming up for retirement, hopefully providing the opportunity for some of the knowledge to be passed on before it is lost to the industry.
How does National Drilling Services recruit operatives with an ageing workforce labour pool?
The management at National Drilling Services has been proactive in our approach to sustainable recruitment of operatives. Many of our workforce have joined us through our apprenticeship scheme. This is a thorough 2 year apprenticeship scheme which teaches apprentices everything there is to know about drilling and sawing. Successful applicants learn about drilling and sawing on both a practical, hands on level as well as the theory behind why we operate this way. This includes all the health and safety aspects which are important to understand and carry out in order to maintain the safety of all operatives working on the site, whether National Drilling Services employees or other site workers. Our apprentices have the opportunity to achieve an NVQ level 2 in drilling and sawing if they complete the 2 year course.
Do apprenticeship schemes work?
As we have already noted above we do have a number of employees who have joined our team of operatives via our apprenticeship scheme, so yes the scheme does work. One of the benefits of the apprenticeship (from the apprenticeships perspective especially) is that apprentices receive wages whilst learning. That is a big incentive to school leavers or those who are struggling to get a job due to lack of experience or qualifications. Another benefit which apprentices often mention is that they can see the application of the theoretical teaching by being involved in the hands on operation alongside the learning. Finishing the apprenticeship after just 2 years potentially with an NVQ Level 2, 2 years work experience and potentially a job is also a big draw for apprentices. However it is getting increasingly difficult to attract younger people into the skilled manual labour roles.
Engaging the younger generation in skilled physical labour
In our experience it is becoming increasingly difficult to engage the younger generation in job roles requiring physical labour. Perhaps living in an ever increasingly digital age maybe a contributor to this, in two respects. Firstly some of the younger generation seem to be so busy engaging in social media and other apps and functions available on their phones and tablets, that they have become a bit ‘removed’ from what is actually happening around them. This is both physical and mental. If you are continuously looking down then you potentially become less aware of what it happening around you and also less curious about activities taking place.
Ask yourself a question, whatever your age – did you see the construction site you just passed? If so what was happening there? Did you see people working? What were they wearing? What were they doing? What machinery were they operating? We appreciate that on many sites the protective fencing or boarding may obstruct the view of the site but you may still be able to see something of the construction or demolition rising high above the height of the perimeter fencing.
Another factor is that our operational roles are not the kind of roles that youngsters are aware of. Many have some kind of idea what a plumber or electrician, builder or carpenter might do but drilling and sawing are not the kind of activities that you often see on a domestic or residential site unless you are already involved in construction.
At National Drilling Services we have a reputation to uphold. As the UK market leader in drilling services to the construction industry it is important that we have a sustainable succession of skilled operatives to carry out a range of drilling and sawing services. If you are interested finding out more about a potential in a role in our business please contact us . Alternatively call us for a chat on 0161 443 2822.