Education Series

Youth in Construction: Building the Future of the Industry

Discover the tangible business benefits of youth in construction


The Australian construction industry is undergoing a profound shift - with youth in construction rising to the forefront. According to An old man’s game, a report by Construction Skills Queensland, 34% of the hours worked in construction were done by people over the age of 45, compared to less than 25% in 1987.

It’s clear, unless construction businesses are willing to attract and retain younger workers, they risk a widening skills gap and an overall decline in productivity and competitiveness. But what can businesses do to bridge the gap?

We spoke to Bridget van de Kamp, Program Officer at Civil Contractors Federation and an expert in delivering youth programs that increase uptake in the construction industry. In her words, “The construction industry is evolving - and shifting the narrative is essential to attracting more youth in construction.”

Let’s dive in and discuss the tangible benefits of a younger workforce - and what business can do to attract these employees to their workforce.

Booming infrastructure and a growing labour shortage: Regardless of Australia’s ageing workforce, the construction industry was already facing a significant labour shortage. The sector is booming, with $230 billion in major public infrastructure, 1.2 million new homes, and a significant investment in clean energy infrastructure to be delivered over the next five years.

However, according to Infrastructure Australia’s 2023 Infrastructure Market Capacity report, there are only 177,000 workers currently in the system, despite the demand for 405,000 workers.

This gap necessitates strategic interventions and innovative solutions, a sentiment that van de Kamp echoes, given the recent decline in traditional construction career pathways.

“Over the last few years, we’ve seen the disruption of traditional paths for young adults entering the workforce,” she says.

“The absence of work experience and networking opportunities has created a younger generation unsure of their next steps. This highlights the need for targeted support and guidance."

The real benefits of a younger workforce

Given Australia’s older construction workforce, it stands to reason that businesses might not realise the tangible benefits of employing a younger workforce. These include:

  • Adaptability and innovation: Younger employees tend to be more adaptable to change and open to embracing innovative construction methods. This adaptability can lead to the adoption of new technologies, materials, and sustainable practices, promoting a culture of continuous improvement and staying ahead of industry trends.
  • Technology adoption: Younger workers often possess a natural affinity for technology, particularly surveying technology, building information modelling (BiM) and advanced project management software. This can enhance your business’s productivity and, ultimately, your bottom line.
    • Diversity and inclusion: A younger workforce often brings greater diversity, which can foster a more inclusive workplace culture, promoting creativity and problem-solving. A diverse workforce can also enhance a business’s ability to address complex challenges.

    Embracing trade professions shouldn’t be seen as a fallback but a strategic choice that addresses the evolving needs of our society

    Shifting the narrative

    Why are younger workers underrepresented in the construction workforce? van de Kamp says it stems from prevailing attitudes towards the sector.

    “Young people have historically perceived construction work as just ‘dirty work’ - which it is to an extent,” she says.

    “But businesses need to shift the narrative, which can be done by embracing technology and recognising those untapped skills that young people have in areas like planning and surveying.”

    For businesses looking to build a younger workforce, she says interventions can start as early as secondary education.

    “Look for ways to attract and retain young school leavers who understand and embrace technology,” she says.

    “Historically, students with an affinity for technology have been labelled as disengaged. Let’s recognise the potential of gaming enthusiasts and drone licence holders. We can bridge the gap between education and industry by showing them how their skills can be applied on-site.”

    With a recent rise in flexible work arrangements and school hours shifts, van de Kamp says businesses are more aware and willing to meet the needs of younger workers. “We’ve seen traffic management companies adjusting their shifts so that young people with families can work around family commitments,” she says.

    “This fosters a healthier work-life balance, but also acknowledges the diverse needs of employees.”

    As a society, van de Kamp also highlighted that recognising the value of trade professions is pivotal for sustainable growth and development.

    “Embracing trade professions shouldn’t be seen as a fallback but a strategic choice that addresses the evolving needs of our society,” she says.

    “Building and construction will always be essential, and we must prepare our youth for these crucial roles."

    Gain a deeper understanding of this topic and more in our Diversity in Construction ebook. Get your copy today for valuable insights into women, mental health and youth in construction.

    Posted By

    Nat is the marketing manager for Viewpoint’s Australian office. With fifteen years of experience in the software industry and a passion for construction, she delivers the best solutions to the industry and helps builders get the tools to get the job done.