Section 2 of the survey explored how employers assumed NEETs perceived the industry, and what they believed NEETs would consider to be barriers. The literature review indicated a low interest in the industry (YouGov, 2015) and this sought to identify reasons employers felt this could be. The first question asked whether the respondents felt NEETs had an interest in working in the industry, 57% suggesting that they were. The YouGov survey found only 3% of all young people actually searched for jobs within construction. This may indicate that the industry is unaware of its lack of attraction to young people, identifying an immediate barrier to recruitment if they assume NEETs will be looking for opportunities.
Those who felt that NEETs were not interested where asked to quantify why they felt this to be the case. The main reason, suggested, by 42%, was a lack of awareness, potentially identifying a reason for the low numbers actively searching. 12.5% of the respondents selected the image of the industry as the reason for lack of interest, similar to the findings of Clarke and Hermann (2007) of 11%, this could also link to the lack of awareness.
The other views, type of work, prospects and lack of security, could also all relate to the lack of awareness in the industry. In addition, comments received suggested that drug and alcohol testing could be perceived as a barrier by NEETs. Only three respondents felt that NEETs lack a work ethic and have no interest in the industry, preferring to remain on benefits.
98% of respondents felt that there were suitable roles that would be accessible to NEETs, but 87% felt the industry is not promoting itself as a positive career. This lack of promotion suggests a possible reason for the findings above, that there is a lack of awareness of the industry and supports the findings of the YouGov (2015) survey. If industry is not promoting itself then unless, as identified by Clarke and Hermann (2007), the young person already has a connection with the industry, they may not be aware of the opportunities it can provide.
The final question in this section asked respondents to identify what they assumed NEETs would consider as a barrier to employment in the industry. Respondents were asked to select maximum of four in order to identify those felt to be the most significant.
The view here was that a loss of benefits was a major barrier, this may be due to perceived low wages for new entrants. As indicated by Buzzeo et al. (2016) and others in the literature review, this can dissuade applicants if they feel, they or their family, would suffer financially from accepting employment. Less than half the number which identified a loss of benefits as a barrier selected level of wages as one. This may indicate that industry feels that the wages available are sufficient to compensate for a loss of benefits, although if NEETs are unaware of the potential earnings they are unlikely to apply. It may also indicate that there are many in the industry who feel that NEETs prefer to be on benefits, as suggested by comments in the previous section. Filtering the results by organisational size, and also whether the survey was completed in an organisational or personal capacity, found the loss of benefits as the main perceived barrier to employment in all cases.
The physicality of the work scored the same as loss of benefits as a barrier, indicating that industry assumes others perceive work in it as strenuous, further evidence of the lack of awareness. Low self-confidence scored the same as the previous two responses and this may be an area that would require support prior to a NEET applying for an opportunity or ongoing support once in a role. It may be assumed that this could improve once in employment.
Whereas in a previous question only 12.5% of respondents felt there was an image problem here 32% selected it as a barrier in terms of NEETs. As acknowledged previously this may be due to industry’s problem in promoting itself, possibly suggesting employers assume the industry is seen in a more negative light by NEETs. This supports the view expressed in the literature review that individuals without connections will be unaware of the opportunities, or the reality of work in construction. The one response as ‘Other’ suggested that a lack of knowledge and appropriate careers advice would be a barrier to NEETs not understanding what the industry can offer. This again could link to industry not promoting itself to young people,
23 additional comments were received in relation to this section, many reinforcing comments made in the survey. The lack of industry awareness and insufficient advice and guidance was highlighted, with one respondent critical of the impact of some trade bodies in promoting the industry. The impact of a lack of contacts within the industry was highlighted, due to the word-of-mouth recruitment practices identified in the literature review. The view that support for both employers and NEETs, as well as employers’ need for assurances that a potential recruit was committed, was also emphasised. The unreliable nature of work was identified as a potential barrier, especially where travel was required and the additional costs this could entail, 30% identified commuting as a possible barrier in the previous question. It was suggested that the infrequent, or lack of, public transport, especially in rural areas, would be a major barrier to employment.
The need for new roles which would be more suited to NEET, was also highlighted; this is explored in the last section of the survey. It was also suggested that employers must acknowledge that, when engaging with this group, there was likely to be a high failure rate. 50% was suggested by one respondent based on personal experience, while claiming that the other 50% would make exceptional employees.
Government insistence that, for apprenticeships, individuals must achieve at least a Level 1 maths and English (for a Level 2 apprenticeship) was seen as a major barrier.
‘I am a bricklayer and have employed several apprentices over the years. The majority are not academically inclined but won’t pass their NVQ unless they achieve an equivalent to a D in maths and English. This is blocking people who could otherwise go on to become good tradesmen.’
One respondent felt that the CSCS health and safety test may represent a barrier for individuals who struggle academically, with a recommendation that recruitment should focus on attitude not qualifications. As was identified in the literature review (Buzzeo et al., 2016; Rüdigar, 2013) while many apprenticeships may not require qualifications these still play a significant role when selecting which applicants to interview, and are often used in lieu of evidence for attitude and soft skills (Newton et al., 2005).
Introductory training courses, explored in the final section, were also criticised as being too short and too classroom based. This conforms to the view identified in the literature review regarding perceived problems with industry training, and the low numbers moving from these courses into employment (Dromey, Morris and Murphy, 2017), and that the courses are not preparing the learners for the industry.
The responses to this section indicate that a major barrier from the NEETs perspective is awareness of the industry, possibly linked to its image. As this section was asking industry what it feels NEETs may perceive as barriers, it seems that it is aware of this issue. This raises the questions of why so little has been done to address it, who is responsible, and what could be done to improve it. If NEETs are unaware of the opportunities available, or have a negative perception of the industry, then they will not consider construction as a viable route into employment, providing a significant barrier to both NEETs and employers.