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Challenging age disparity within the built environment

Challenging age disparity within the built environment

In the ever-evolving built environment, one glaring disparity often stands out – the age gap. This industry, essential to the infrastructure of society, is witnessing a noticeable generational divide. On one side, seasoned veterans with decades of experience; on the other, a new wave of young professionals eager to make their mark.

What are the benefits of an ageing workforce in the industry?

  • Experience and expertise – the most evident advantage of a wide age range within a workforce is the scope of experience and expertise. Older individuals working in the construction sector bring decades of experience and industry knowledge, having witnessed many changes in the built environment.
  • Mentoring opportunities – having a wide range of ages working together can create mentoring opportunities. For those just starting out in their career, they can benefit from the guidance of a more seasoned professional, which can be highly beneficial for their own career growth within the built environment and can give the older professional a sense of achievement by seeing the younger person’s development.
  • Opinions – different generations often have contrasting opinions on how to complete a task. Different viewpoints can be a difficulty if not handled correctly, but with the encouragement of healthy debate and two way listening innovative solutions to tasks can emerge

What are possible impacts of the age disparity in the industry?

  • Retirement – construction is a highly skilled profession and when employees retire, they take their skills and knowledge from the industry, causing this knowledge to be lost forever.
  • Technological divide – younger professionals are usually more technologically aware, while some older colleagues may be less comfortable with embracing digital platforms and tools. However, this can be counteracted through training and support.
  • Retention and replacement – retaining skilled workers in the construction sector is a challenge, people leave for a variety of reasons including career progression or a desire for a new challenge. The high replacement demand across the built environment means that companies often struggle to find a suitably qualified replacement, causing the younger generation to feel pressurised to work at a level they are not competent to do and increases the workload on the more experienced generation leading to negative effect on staff wellbeing and can ultimately lead to more people leaving the industry.

What actions should businesses take?

  • Legal – businesses should ensure that their policies and procedures support workers of all ages
  • Future planning – ensure knowledge is shared among colleagues to minimise the risk of knowledge gaps when workers choose to retire or leave the industry
  • Staff wellbeing – staff turnover can be costly for companies, but ensuring staff wellbeing is a priority, good working conditions are established, and clear communication can help valuable members remain within the construction industry for longer.

Addressing the age gap in the built environment is vital for creating an inclusive and adaptable workplace that cater to the needs of all generations. By adopting collaboration, and considering long-term implications, the industry can work towards building a society that enhances the quality of life for everyone, regardless of age.

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