Inspiring directions: Understanding career choices to accelerate change

In 2023, the Engineering Construction Industry Training Board (ECITB) undertook research into the career motivations of workers employed in the engineering construction industry (ECI), learners working towards qualifications relevant to the industry, and the general population regardless of professional sector. 

The careers motivation study, titled Inspiring directions: Understanding career choices to accelerate change, consisted of a series of surveys targeting these three groups, with results principally aggregated by age and gender.

The purpose of the research was to provide a snapshot of what motivates career choices, to dispel potential myths regarding attitudes towards engineering construction and to develop an evidence base of the perceptions of the industry and its sectors.

A sample of 1,626 individuals from the wider UK population were asked for their views on different industry sectors to assess possible barriers each may face when developing policies to expand their talent pool.

In comparison, 154 people from within the industry – made up of 89 learners and 65 workers – were also asked for their perceptions, as well as to rank a series of factors to better understand what motivates them in their careers.

As well as analysing the survey results, the final report includes conclusions and recommendations based on the trends and perceptions highlighted in the research, taking into consideration what the evidence suggests are the important factors people consider when making career choices.

The ECITB's career motivations report is titled Inspiring directions - Understanding career choices to accelerate change

Read the full career motivations study

Career motivations study overview

Career Anchors

The cohort of ECI workers and learners were asked for their views on a series of career anchors developed by Edgar H. Schein that can be used by employers to reflect on how their organisation aligns with employee motivations to potentially increase job satisfaction, employee engagement and reduce turnover.

The surveys were constructed around these anchors to give continuity and structure to the responses, and to allow for comparisons across sectors, geographies, and other characteristics. Scores range from 0 (low importance of the anchor being considered) to 3 (high importance).

Of the eight anchors, security and stability ranked first, followed by lifestyle. Autonomy and independence, pure challenge, and functional or technical competence all obtained similar scoring between third and fifth place.

Survey results for the career anchors

Survey results for the career anchors

Motivation Anchors

Engineering construction industry learners and workers were also asked to give their views on what motivates their career choices.

Each individual rated eight motivation anchors, covering specific aspects of their career. These elements are more specific than the career anchors and were rated out of ten (the higher the score, the higher the importance of the item for respondents).

Opportunities to progress and financial considerations were the top two, while opportunities to evolve in a welcoming and inclusive environment was third, although women place even more importance than men on this factor, scoring this 8.18 and 7.59 respectively. Opportunities to work on the energy transition ranked bottom.

Survey results for motivation anchors

Survey results for motivation anchors

Industry Perceptions

The ECI learners and workers, as well as the sample from the general population, were asked whether they would consider joining any of the sectors on a pre-defined list.

Seven of these sectors belong to the ECI – namely oil and gas, nuclear, renewables, water and waste treatment, pharmaceuticals, chemicals and food processing – while two are industries whose labour markets are often considered to operate with some degree of overlap with the ECI, namely construction and rail.

Findings of the study show ECI workers and learners view these sectors much more positively than the general population, with the results suggesting recruiting new entrants from outside the industry may be a challenge.

When asked whether they would consider joining any of the individual sectors, on average only 18% of those surveyed from the wider population said yes, with 45% saying no.

However, the report stated: “It should not be surprising to see higher percentages of ‘negative’ responses in the general public sample compared to the ECI samples because the general public sample also considers views of those completely disconnected from industry, while the ECI population is already aware of opportunities in the various sectors and may be able to more realistically consider a career in these sectors.”

The report includes tables with percentage figures for each sector, broken down by ECI, public, age and gender, as well as tables ranking each sector like below.

Rankings for perceptions of each sector in the career motivations study

Rankings for perceptions of each sector in the career motivations report

Working Patterns and Travel

Working patterns have a strong influence on career choices. This report explores several aspects, such as spending nights away from home, commuting, working offshore, and working from home.

One such question asked of those surveyed among the ECI sample and the wider population was how far they would be prepared to move to find a job.

Read the full report and its conclusions

Why understanding career motivations is ‘paramount’
Survey results for willingness to relocate

Survey results for willingness to relocate