The UK construction industry accounts for about 8% of GDP and 9% of all employment. It attracts over £150 billion of investment ever year in the public and private sectors. At the same time the built environment, to which construction is central, is responsible for 40% of the UK's carbon emissions. It is the perfect example of a double-edged sword: crucial to the economy but destructive to the environment.
The International Energy Agency (IEA) estimates that emissions from construction processes must fall by 50% between now and 2030 if we are to reach net-zero. There is no shortage of imaginative initiatives aimed at achieving this but amongst all of them, one stands out as the surest, fastest way of hitting the target. Modern Methods of Construction (MMC) are the future of sustainable construction.
Not only does MMC - and largely its offsite, modular manufacturing elements - reduce costs and make affordable housing more feasible, it can drastically reduce CO2 emissions, both in construction and throughout the operational life of the buildings it creates.
However, although the technology is maturing quickly, the industry needs to address the challenge of finding the right personnel. In 2018, the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors discussed the details of that year's Construction Sector Deal to support the modernisation of the industry and along with investment, infrastructure and supply chain issues, they referred to the importance of "reforming industry recruitment and training to attract, retain and develop the skills that the industry needs."
Like many other emerging industries, the MMC sector faces difficulties in hiring enough of the appropriately skilled personnel. From architects to site workers, the majority are still more familiar with traditional methods so when it comes to specialist MMC skills, it's a candidate-led market. So what strategies should you adopt to guarantee access to the professionals who can help drive your construction business forward? In our recent webinar, 'Hard Hats Chat: Women in MMC', our expert speakers addressed this question and came up with some enlightening answers.
Emily King of ESS Modular remarked: "Vocabulary is really key in the hiring process. For example, an understanding of 'Digital Technician' and what our processes look like. We have a different process, so teams must have a different mindset in modular."
When you are recruiting for roles in advanced MMC operations, you must leave candidates in no doubt about your commitment and that means mastering the language. Words and phrases represent concepts so you can't simply transfer the language of the old into the world of the new. At Build Space we understand the need for verbal accuracy so we've set up our Modular Space division, headed by Meera Patel, the purpose of which is to train employers in the use of accurate vocabulary. Your credibility as an MMC employer depends on this.
It may be something of a cliché, but MMC represents a genuinely disruptive influence. It is not just an incremental step forward in construction, but a fundamental change that demands re-evaluation of every aspect from design through construction and on into the post-construction life of the building. It is an entirely different approach which demands a completely new mindset amongst its practitioners. That goes for employers and for candidates. Emily King again: "It's a really different mindset. It all comes back to communication. The importance of digital thinking, strategic thinking, collaboration and empathy is so much greater."
Victoria Greenfield of MAR Offsite echoes this view: "MMC attracts modern, forward-thinking individuals. Allows you to get passionate about the industry. You're shown that you add value to the business."
Your recruitment process should involve an assessment of every candidate's mindset. Whatever their skills and experience, if they don't think MMC, they probably aren't the right person.
Graduates and Government Schemes
There is substantial government support for MMC, as evidenced in their collaboration on the £420 million Construction Sector Deal. This commitment extends to the establishment of training schemes which, it is hoped, will deepen the pool of MMC talent available. Businesses can play a significant part in this education process, as Victoria Greenfield explained: "There's currently a lack of understanding and appreciation. We need to take advantage of government schemes and work for the future, work for our future selves. Take on apprentices and trainees."
Bringing in new talent will enable you to transform your operation. Moreover, its influence will spread throughout your organisation and set the new MMC agenda.
The other critical source for hiring is new graduates, those ambitious entrants to the workforce who have enquiring minds and can-do attitudes. As Emily King said: "We need problem solvers. We need those people who've earned top degrees at university, so that we can keep this change going."
However energetically the construction industry tries to shed its reputation as an exclusively white, male environment, there is always more to be done. MMC presents the perfect opportunity to break the mould once and for all while opening the gates to undiscovered talent from every community. Diversity in recruitment has long been recognised as far more than a buzzword: not only is it socially responsible, it is also very good for business. Emily King again: "To employ for diversity, you have to employ wider, you have to work harder and offer better incentives. You have to look in harder places and find new people."
This is part of the Build Space mission. We are a genuinely proactive talent partner, exploring every possible source of candidates all over the UK. It's part of our service to look far beyond the familiar job boards and the usual suspects. We create our own unique pipeline of candidates.
In such a competitive recruitment market, one of the best ways to keep ahead of your rivals is to turn yourself into an employer candidates aspire to work for. As Victoria Greenfield explained: "We want to be an employer of choice. We look at what our employees want, and that allows us to attract a diverse portfolio of people."
You need to create and market your employer brand as vigorously as you would sell yourself to customers. If you can position your business as one of the most desirable career options in the sector, you've won half the battle. At Build Space we have years of experience in helping our clients do just this. We can show you how to leverage the power of attraction to bring the next-gen industry leaders to your door.
Hiring for MMC: The Exception or the Rule?
MMC is still seen in some quarters as the construction industry's equivalent of alternative therapy: useful to have, but still only marginal. The reality is starting to look very different, with the combined drivers of economics and environmental damage pushing it squarely into the mainstream. It won't be long before the first M for 'modern' becomes redundant because all construction will be carried out this way.
Consequently, there will no longer be any need to discuss specific strategies for MMC recruitment. As Emily King expressed it: "We will hit a tipping point where that's just what recruiting for construction looks like. It won't be 'recruiting for MMC' it will be 'recruiting for construction'."
Why not give yourself a head start and let Build Space help you become an early adopter of methods which will soon become the norm?