A study from Salford University into the role of black and minority ethnic (BME) people in construction has reported that misconceptions and a lack of support are preventing the industry from having a diverse workforce.
Only 2% of the two million people in construction are from a BME background whereas 8% of the national workforce is made up of this section of society.
By interviewing students, employees, managing directors, HR managers, academics and careers advisors, the Salford team has created a comprehensive report and produced recommendations for the industry – including more support and work experience to help minorities adjust to the culture.
The 18-month study found that in an industry which is often competitive and dominated by white males, ethnic minorities can lack the self-confidence to effectively network and progress up the career ladder.
Dr Vian Ahmed of Salford’s School of the Built Environment led the project. She said: “Many of the people we interviewed suggested that cultural differences and assumptions can put BME people off construction.
“BME people often assume that there is a lot of overt racism in the industry whereas non-BME people are often unaware of other people’s cultures.”
The researchers also found that of the 105 employees they interviewed, the average length of time spent in the industry was 11 years for non-BME people and just four years for BMEs.
Vian added: “The time spent working in construction varied a lot between the two groups. Partly, this is because of the competitive culture of the industry and partly because BME workers can feel a lot more isolated or under more pressure to succeed than their non-BME colleagues.”
The European Social Fund sponsored project recently culminated in a conference held at the University. Representatives from companies such as Laing O’Rourke and from the Government joined academics to discuss the findings and issue recommendations.
As a result, Vian and her team are now calling for greater support and more opportunities for work placement to ensure that BME people have the confidence and experience to begin a transformation of the construction industry.