Young Kiwis doubt strength and smarts for Construction jobs

According to our latest research, many young New Zealanders are steering clear of careers in construction, engineering, and infrastructure, viewing them as too physical and challenging. This is threatening even greater workforce shortages nationwide.

Over half of young adults and over 60% of millennials view the idea of having a career in engineering, construction and civil infrastructure negatively.

The research shows that 44% of millennials and 37% of young adults (aged 18-25) believe they lack the physical strength for construction jobs. Additionally, around 30% of students feel they are not proficient enough in maths or sciences for these careers.

These misconceptions will exacerbate skills shortages.

Many young New Zealanders believe these jobs require exceptional physical strength or advanced STEM skills, but this is far from the truth. Our sectors include a wide range of occupations, from engineering and project management to architecture and quantity surveying.

These misconceptions are a growing problem for New Zealand, as we urgently need more skilled professionals to build our new homes, hospitals, and other vital infrastructure.

Jasmin Lawrence, a BCITO-qualified, Wanaka-based project manager and mentor who champions female participation in building and construction, says a lack of role models, insufficient exposure to trades careers in schools, and persistent stereotypes contribute to these misconceptions, particularly among young women.

“We never learnt about the trades and career paths in construction at high school. The perception of women has always been that we are less fitting for certain tasks or roles. If things are not visible to us in our teens, we won’t go out there searching.

“The construction industry has been massively overlooked for many years, and this has significantly impacted women entering this industry. If education undervalues trades, we can’t expect more people to choose these career paths,” Lawrence says.

Lawrence adds that young women face significant social barriers when entering these careers.

“There is still some uncertainty around employing women and women wanting to enter the construction industry due to the lack of support and awareness available. We need more knowledge, understanding, and reassurance across the board. This massive task needs to encompass all sexes, ages, and ethnicities, not to mention job security for those wanting to start a family at some point.

“We also need to back up, support, and educate businesses to offer more opportunities for potential growth without the uncertainty of the unknown. Even though there is an even playing field when it comes to applying for work and equal pay, frequent barriers still exist,” Lawrence says.

While the construction industry is experiencing a national slowdown, the long-term demand for skilled professionals remains critical.

The slowdown impacts parts of the industry, including fewer civil engineering projects and reduced activity among group housing builders. However, this is a temporary downturn, and we expect the sector to recover over the next 12-18 months.

This recovery will require a concerted effort to address misconceptions and attract new talent to the industry. Roles in construction, engineering, and infrastructure are varied and well-paid and offer job security in main centres and regions with a robust pipeline of future work.