This negative view of the construction industry is deep-rooted in cultural perceptions of manual labour and its related fields. It is, however, very much out of date.
With the dawn of the industrial revolution, came the height of skilled labour’s status. The economy was driven by manual labour and it was recognised that these skilled people were vital in building a prosperous nation.
However, with technological advancements, the last century has seen a reversal in the makeup of the workforce in developed economies. A couple of generations ago, around 80% the workforce were in manual labour, whereas now, around 80% are in office environments.
With the economy shifting from manual labour to ‘intellectually-driven’ roles, education was pushed as the route to bettering oneself. Understandably so too; there was a growing market for white-collar workers, better working conditions, better pay, more stable work and no need to sweat.
This, of course, conversely meant that those deemed less ‘able’ were steered toward blue-collar as a ‘Plan B’. Over time, this built into a cultural norm that the most ‘able’ pursued white-collar work and vice-versa; more academic education equalled better job.
This didn’t do the trades any favours attracting talent….or, for that matter, do young people naturally gifted for these trades, any favours either. A generation, or more, squeezed themselves into being average white-collar workers, instead of the outstanding skilled tradespeople they could have been.
However, in recent years, we’ve seen the myth exposed. It’s now acknowledged by most that blue-collar vs. white-collar no longer means a factory worker vs. the business fat-cat.
No, by the standards which we judge a ‘good’ job these days, the margins between the two are far slimmer and more nuanced…
Autonomy to make the right decisions?
Satisfaction in what you do?
An enjoyable working environment?
Even rates of pay are often comparable, if not better, for skilled labour these days.
The only significant difference in this day and age is probably status. Blue-collar roles are still finding hard to shake off their historical perceptions of inferiority to their white-collar counterparts.
That said, things are quickly improving, however. After all, some trades need 8,000 hours of training, and there’s widespread certification required for most roles now, comparable to academic qualifications.
Be in no doubt that the construction industry is full of very capable people, who have invested enormously in their training – both academic and practical. They very often enjoy comparable, if not better, working conditions and pay too.
It’s time to shake off the old stereotypes and deal with the facts:
There is currently a huge shortage of skilled labour in the UK and many other countries. Honestly educating the next generation about the opportunities the sector holds for them will be key to our future prosperity.
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