Breaking barriers – How the property industry can diversify its workforce through engagement with young people

Breaking barriers – How the property industry can diversify its workforce through engagement with young people 11 August 2023

With record rates of 18-year-olds being accepted to university expected to continue this year, the academic route into a career is still the most popular, with over 22,000 students graduating in architecture, planning, and building in 2022. However, there are now more opportunities than ever for young people to get industry experience while studying and, to combat the misconception that a degree is the best way into a career, the Government recently promised to improve choices for young people leaving school, through the T-Levels, which involves on-the-job training, and traineeships, which focus on skills development over a six month period.

However, the problem is that many young people from disadvantaged backgrounds aren’t aware of the opportunities available to them in industries such as commercial property, and the routes into roles. Research from Total Jobs and the Social Mobility Foundation found that there is a lack of career confidence in people from lower socioeconomic backgrounds, and they also earn less than half of what their more privileged counterparts do in their first job after full-time education (£11,595 versus £23,457).

For this reason, the property industry must engage with young people from disadvantaged backgrounds, not only to improve employment prospects, but also to diversify the industry. Jake recently held a pilot event in partnership with Prologis, taking a group of pupils to a live site to promote the career opportunities available in property, engaging with students from diverse backgrounds. So, what are the learnings from this experience, and how can the property industry become more accessible, taking inspiration from other sectors?

Education from the ground up

It’s never too early to inspire young minds to create a rewarding career path. Sectors like tech, gaming, and health and life sciences are already engaging with young people, going into schools and taking students out on facility visits. Currently, the property sector isn’t doing that level of engagement, and certainly not at year nine to ten level. By getting students excited about the opportunities in property - whether that’s designing buildings, doing deals, or finding sites - the seed is planted in their mind for when they reach the decision-making stage of their education.

From there, it’s important to promote alternative career routes such as apprenticeships and traineeships. According to the UK Government, most young people consciously make their post-18 choices as early as year nine. However, up to 47% going into apprenticeships wait until year 13 to make that decision. Parents are the main source of influence for those following non-academic routes, with only 48% consulting their teachers, compared to 69% following an academic route. In that report, it was discovered that students felt they were given poor advice about apprenticeships by schools, and they wanted to know more about the financial support available. Employers in property must go to careers fairs or post online about their non-academic opportunities, focusing on providing clear information and the financial benefits of working while studying.

Ultimately, employers who are able to engage with young people at school level and open themselves up to a more diverse workforce will feel the benefits – investing in their employability skills and building a pipeline of talent. To attract candidates, offer expenses-paid internships, provide the equipment and training required to do the work, and list the salary up front.

A person’s socioeconomic background has a lasting impact on their career. By taking steps to boost social mobility through school engagement and improving accessibility, the property industry can unlock opportunities for all.

+44 (0)113 280 8062