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Blog by Engineering Construction Industry Training Board (ECITB) Chief Executive Andrew Hockey

The engineering construction industry is responsible for the design, build, maintenance and decommissioning of major UK infrastructure.

Our industry sectors are at the forefront of progress in the journey to net zero and have a vested interest in harnessing the benefits that a more diverse and inclusive talent pool can provide, including a broader range of views and experiences that not only increase performance but also unlock that vital innovation.

The ECITB is committed to leading industry learning and in doing so we want to promote diversity of thought, encourage meaningful discourse and cultivate inclusion, which we believe are the cornerstones of organisational change and progress.

Diversity and inclusion are the seeds of change, which given the right investment, the right support from organisational leadership and the right conditions in which to grow, become exactly what we need them to be – drivers for change.

Our vision is to support industry as it becomes a place where everyone can belong. One of the greatest challenges for engineering construction is the increasing demand for skills and a substantial increase in the number of people required to deliver net zero-critical projects.

If we are to achieve success in attraction and retention, we must put a focus on enhancing positive and inclusive workplace cultures.

With diversity and inclusion there is often pressure to act quickly. However, I am conscious that, without careful planning and targeting, action taken can be insubstantial and short lived.

I’m very proud then of the work undertaken by our team to produce the ECITB’s Equity, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) Action Plan, which we have published today.

The goal of this plan is to support and influence the industry in creating a strong culture of inclusion for all, regardless of background, and to widen diversity of participation from current levels. It outlines the foundation for long-term, meaningful progress.

Our Inclusion, Diversity and Equality Action (IDEA) group will support the delivery of the plan, which sets out priority areas and objectives for the period covering our Leading Industry Learning strategy.

The ECITB’s 2024 Workforce Census will help us further update our data on the demographics of the industry and better understand the scale of potential to open up engineering construction opportunities to a more diverse workforce.

We recognise there is work to be done to encourage strategic diversity data collection by engineering construction employers, as highlighted by our 2021 Workforce Census and by the very low return rate to OEUK’s 2022 employer D&I survey.

The ECITB wants to help industry attract and retain new recruits from every walk of life and that is why we put EDI at the heart of everything we do.

Putting diversity and inclusion at the heart of everything we do

Our plan has six focus areas for our external work: industry support, stimulate change, share knowledge, signpost resources, advocate and monitor.

This work includes providing grant funding to employers for EDI training. The ECITB has two diversity and inclusion training standards, which have supported nearly 4,000 learners since 2020.

We will use our resources, networks and strategic partnerships to stimulate change in the industry, for example by establishing a quarterly EDI knowledge-sharing network for employers, providers and stakeholders.

In 2023, we entered into a strategic partnership with the Association for Black and Minority Ethnic Engineers (AFBE-UK). This not-for-profit organisation kindly inputted into the action plan we launch today and I would like to personally express my heartfelt thanks to the team at AFBE-UK for this.

Being able to draw on AFBE-UK’s experience and insights will help us better support industry to ensure it reaches and inspires potential candidates from ethnic minority backgrounds.

As part of a pilot programme in the underwater sector, we are also partnering with STEM Returners and the Global Underwater Hub (GUH) to attract industry returners from diverse backgrounds.

We recognise that to support industry effectively and be credible advocates for equity, diversity and inclusion, we need to develop as an organisation and embed an inclusive approach that aligns with our responsibilities across all areas of our operation.

I recently attended a roundtable in York hosted by Women into Science and Engineering (WISE), which featured many great speakers with EDI experience.

My key takeaway from the event was the importance of getting management buy-in when it comes to EDI planning, and further stressed how vital consistent leadership behaviours will be in delivering this plan.

One of our key actions will be to embed Equality Impact Assessments across our governance processes ensuring diversity is considered in our decision-making.

There is more to do at the ECITB and across the wider engineering construction industry, but we are working hard to put diversity and inclusivity at the heart of everything we do.

Read the ECITB’s Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Action Plan

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