New coalition will initially focus on increasing collaboration, networking and knowledge sharing across the sector.

Eleven leading organisations in the construction industry, representing over two hundred and fifty thousand workers, have united to launch a new coalition that aims to tackle a lack of diversity across the industry.

The Coalition was launched in front of hundreds of businesses across the construction sector at the Builders Merchant’s Federation annual conference at the Birmingham NEC today (Thursday 21 September).

The Construction Inclusion Coalition has been established by CEOs at leading organisations including Aliaxis, Baxi, Bradfords, Highbourne Group, Ibstock PLC, Knauf, Travis Perkins PLC, Wavin, Wolseley, the Builders Merchants Federation and the National Merchant Buying Society, to raise sector standards on equity, diversity and inclusion, with an immediate focus on gender representation in its first year.

The Coalition is being launched alongside new polling which shows that only one third (36%) of British people would feel confident that their female family or friends would be safe and respected if they joined the construction industry.

The research of over 2,000 adults also outlines the opportunity for the sector, with nearly half of people (46%) saying they’d be more likely to actively seek out employment opportunities in the construction industry if it demonstrated a stronger commitment to diversity and inclusion.

Construction Inclusion Coalition Chairperson and Toolstation Managing Director, Angela Rushforth, said: “There is no doubt that the future of our industry is at risk if we don’t create an environment where all our colleagues feel safe, empowered and confident. I want all young women to see the construction sector as I do - full of opportunity.

“We aren’t attracting and retaining from a diverse pool of talent, because many think the construction sector is not for them. These are industry-wide challenges that require industry-wide solutions, which is why the Construction Inclusion Coalition has been set up to improve equity, diversity and inclusion.

"We are calling on businesses across the sector – no matter how big or small - to join our Coalition and commit to taking action in their organisations”.

The construction sector has one of the most rapidly ageing workforces in the UK, with research showing that close to a million construction workers – around a third of the UK’s total workforce – are set to retire in the next ten years.[1]

Despite this, the industry is currently only made up of 15% women and six per cent from ethnic minority backgrounds[2], and faces challenges attracting and recruiting from a diverse pool of talent.

The organisations involved are urging businesses across the industry to join the initiative and take the Built on Better Pledge. The pledge covers seven areas members commit to working on.

Organisations will work together to enhance the impact of their individual equity, diversity and inclusion initiatives, by fostering collaboration and establishing a network to share knowledge and resources across the industry, and co-creating solutions that will make a difference. Progress will be tracked annually and shared in a public report.

The Coalition has been endorsed by the Construction Leadership Council, the leading body which draws together business leaders from across the construction sector and links them with the UK government.

Construction Leadership Council Co-Chair and CEO of Mace, Mark Reynolds, said:
“The Construction Leadership Council has long been advocating for businesses and organisations in our sector to collaborate to make our industry more welcoming and inclusive.

"It is clear that ensuring a consistent approach to equity, diversity and inclusion will be vital for the future of construction, which is why we’re pleased to support the Construction Inclusion Coalition. There is much work to be done, however I am confident that sharing knowledge and raising standards, we can make a meaningful impact across the sector.”

Manufacturing Management Trainee at Ibstock, Isabella Walsh, added: “I totally understand other women’s concerns about working in construction – I had them myself before I joined as a Trainee Manufacturing Manager.

"But my colleagues have been so welcoming, many are now good friends. Although things have changed for the better in the last few years, we need businesses in construction to come together to accelerate this change, which is why I think the Construction Inclusion Coalition is so important.”

[1] Construction Industry Training Board’s (CITB) Construction Skills Network, 2022

[2] ONS statistics, 2023