The problem of labour shortages in construction could be feeding a ‘culture of dishonesty’ in its recruitment sector, a leading provider has suggested.
by Rory Butler / February 7, 2023
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Founder and MD of GVR Solutions, Geoff Vincent told of a battle in his sector between rival agencies, where some masquerade as prospective job applicants to acquire a rival’s job information, which they themselves then advertise to achieve a commission.
In a recent case, his team received an online enquiry which they treated as a new applicant.
However, upon further investigation online, it emerged the person had two separate profiles with the same photo, one of which was a “Tier One” agency.
“We looked him up on [social media],” said Mr Vincent. “He’s got the same photo on both profiles, which is a bit silly.
“He had a [role] for [company], which is who we thought we were speaking to.
“We searched a bit further and this person with the same name and photo is also a recruitment consultant for a very well-known [area] recruitment business – a Tier One business who should know better.”
He added: “It’s hard enough and this industry’s got a bad enough name as it is without people assisting in that. This guy is sat on the phone pretending to be something that he isn’t.”
Mr Vincent challenged the agency by phone who he claimed blanked him.
When he reported the problem to the client, he was told that firm would cease further dealings with that particular recruiter.
When asked whether Mr Vincent thought this was an endemic issue in construction recruitment, he said ‘it isn’t happening as much as it used to’, but that he was ‘staggered’ it still occurred.
He did say however that he thought it was more common among mid-level professions.
He added: “That guy looked young. He would have been encouraged or given permission to do that, which is more worrying. There’s a fundamentally wrong business method there.
“Construction recruitment has a really bad name. It’s rife with dishonesty, it’s rife with people that don’t know what they’re talking about. It’s very easy to be not very good at this job.
“And, unfortunately, it isn’t the minority, it’s the majority, and you get dragged down with it. So, I do take things personally when I see that happening. This is my livelihood.
“We want to build a genuine reputation. We’re trying to address the mental health issue, the labour shortage.
“And then you get people who have no interest in any of that. They do whatever they can to earn whatever they can, by any means necessary, which goes against everything I believe.”
While Mr Vincent accepts construction recruitment is a competitive business with strenuous targets and financial incentives, he said he does not condone “manipulative” methods to get ahead, adding: “That’s got a shelf life and let’s face it, you certainly can’t build an honest career that way. It goes on too often with certain businesses for it to be considered ‘thinking outside the box’.”
An image problem
Quantity Surveyors, Estimators, Project Managers and Design roles are currently in demand but suffer supply problems, said Mr Vincent, whose firm supplies mainly white-collar personnel to the construction industry.
He said the lack of talent in recent years is, in part, due to a “stigma” attached to construction, paired with an ageing workforce.
He urged proactive campaigning for the industry by the industry, including in its marketing efforts, and to reach a younger candidate at primary and secondary education levels.
He also said firms should weigh more seriously what young people consider real value in a career beyond a salary, for example quality of life.
“This is a pre-pandemic issue and it only seems to be getting worse,” said Mr Vincent. “It isn’t app development. It’s construction development. How do you make construction attractive?
“The reason we’re struggling is, there isn’t that level of interest at an early age. A lot of the people we place are in [construction] because family members were.
“There’s a whole world of opportunity in construction, it isn’t just bricks and mortar. Construction is its own economy in many ways.”
Redefining a ‘creator’
“I don’t think there is enough awareness in primary and secondary education to say, ‘if you’re good at maths and you like tangible things you don’t need to work in a bank, you could be a financier in construction’,” said Mr Vincent.
“If you’re creative, you can create new communities, you can create economies, you can create cultures.
“This [new generation] is more interested in being looked after than earning loads of money. So, ‘how construction can look after them’ is a better message than, ‘if you lay 1,000 bricks a day, you’re going to earn £500’.
“I don’t think the industry is doing enough to market itself, to get people interested.”
GVR Solutions in Romford provides freelance and permanent white-collar personnel to the construction industry.
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