Discrimination in Construction | Selection Partners | Executive Recruitment, Melbourne

Discrimination in the Construction Industry

Age discrimination happens at both ends of the age spectrum! As a newly qualified apprentice wanting more duties and responsibilities and stepping up, you can still be perceived as the Rookie post completion. Many younger people complete a Pre-Apprenticeship Cert 1 & 2 in years 10 – 12 and coupled with a licence and a vehicle are in very high demand at age 18 then completed and qualified by age 20. However, no one seems to jump at Adult Apprentices (ages 21 and above).

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 I don’t understand why a mid-size firm wouldn’t seek to gain a return on their 2 to 4 year investment? The only option I can see is that they recycle Apprentices, provide a great reference and then hire another apprentice as its cheaper than a labourer. I see this occurring more in residential construction than commercial. I have spoken to several Site Managers and Forepeople that say, “I had an interview with that company last year and they don’t like us old blokes.” This is something I have heard way too often, hence why I’m writing this article!

Not everyone wants to climb or build the construction corporate ladder. Is 50 the new use-by date for Australia’s most experienced Site Managers/Senior Site Managers for builds between $2M – $20M? Do companies really care about quality and diversity or do they just want to keep costs down? Do they want to be kings of their own castle and not draw on the expertise of others? Is it ego? Is it a lack of management/communication skills to manage someone who may have a better suggestion or do they just want yes people? I would love to hear peoples thoughts on this!I recently declined to provide a shortlist for a builder whose construction manager said, ” I don’t want anyone older than me – I don’t want anyone telling me how to do my job.” I was gobsmacked that a construction manager declined his own peers and would make such sweeping generalisations in terms of who they would and would not interview based on age alone.

I interviewed a Site Manager-Structure Foreman who is only 52 & who has trained and led a team for over 20 years. He commenced at 16 years of age and has seen it all. What some firms seem to forget is that these people will have a longer tenure than someone with 5 years experience who may jump from tier 3, then tier 2, then tier 1 and who often have unrealistic salary expectations! With age comes experience – and one heck of a network! They can attract past apprentices to join the firm and their subcontractor network is often outstanding!

As an Industry, we cannot be ageist and we have to offer people of all ages the opportunity to interview and be aware of our own bias, notice our own personal opinions due to a past experience and get over them. If Henry Ford listened to what his clients wanted he would have built faster horses. Let’s give these people a good Aussie crack based on experience, attitude and capability – not a number!

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