A-level results are out today; and whereas many teenage boys will have received good results, it no longer necessarily follows that they will be going to university.
A potentially controversial opinion, I know. But I do sometimes wonder whether an almost obsessive need for companies to demonstrate their commitment to diversity has meant we’ve started to overlook this pool of resource that is ripe for the taking.
I think the changing landscape of further education offers an interesting insight. Although over a year ago now, a fascinating article in The Telegraph looked at some of the contributors to fewer boys now going to university. In fact, in May this year, The Higher Education Policy Institute predicted that a baby girl born in 2016 will be 75% more likely to go to university than a baby boy if the current trend continues.
In the piece, Jonathan Wells refers to a growth in campaigns encouraging female students to pursue higher education, citing, in particular, an initiative to encourage females onto STEM courses, after it was found that only 13% of them were populated by women. Conversely, he points out that there has been no corresponding campaign to encourage working class or disillusioned men.
Now, looking more inwardly; I’m certainly not saying that we shouldn’t be doing everything we can to encourage more females (and indeed more ethnic minorities) into our industry. But are we forgetting the low hanging fruit?
If fewer and fewer boys are going to university, where are they going? The gender divide in A-level results is narrowing, so they are still achieving academically. Instead, according to Wells, it has been suggested that the male psyche does not possess a desire as strong as its female equivalent to achieve high levels of academic success and that this, coupled with rising tuition fees, may have caused disillusionment amongst boys approaching university age.
So – what we’re left with is a well-educated section of society in need of some direction. Surely an ideal target market for the construction industry? Yet, I rarely hear anyone talking about how we engage with this segment in particular.
Is PR to blame? Are we too focused on looking great, because we champion women in construction – rather than just solving the problem at hand, through any channels we can?