Neil Martin, managing director of Lendlease’s European construction business, has spoken out for the need to retain older construction workers because the sector cannot manage without their expertise.

Within the next five to 10 years, 19% of the UK workforce are due to retire.  Between 1991 and 2011 the percentage of workers aged 45 or above was 13%.  The house building sector’s current demographics show that now is the time to take action.

Age diversity can help the industry

Martin says: “If construction is to be truly diverse and caters for everyone, it cannot stop at gender and ethnicity. Age diversity is just as important – as with other types of diversity, it’s not just the right thing to do; it also offers huge potential to boost the bottom line.”

Brexit jitters have been circulating about a possible exodus of younger construction workers heading out of the UK.  On the back of this, industry bosses have been making clear the importance of recruiting more UK millennials and attracting those who may have rejected the idea of a career path in construction.

Lure back retired building industry experts?

Martin puts forward the argument that whilst new young talent is essential, so is trying to retain those at the other end of their building careers by revealing the way the industry has evolved to offer greater choice in employment opportunities.

“I would go further and say we need to get some of those who have taken early retirement back into the industry.”

Youth and experience – the ideal mix

Lendlease is experiencing first hand a rise in the number of employees staying on past 65, showing all the same commitment and passion they started with.  The company believe this is having a positive impact, but crucially it is a way of overcoming the skills shortage.

Martin proposes that bringing together a younger and older workforce not only boosts productivity and the bottom line but results in a more creative and effective workforce.  The combination of solid experience and judgement with state-of-the-art technological expertise is a powerful tool to solve many different challenges throughout the building process.

“Nowhere is it written that an older workforce cannot keep up with technological changes”

Sending out the signals that moving towards tech-change is an advantage rather than a danger to older workers is vital.  New technical skills can be taught and individuals at any age can be retrained but experience cannot and it is this which needs to be introduced when implementing new technology.

“Teaming up in this way can solve the issue of retaining knowledge and motivating older staff,” adds Martin. “It means experienced workers feel valued and focused on a new role, while younger staff have the back-up they need to approach their careers with confidence.”