With over 25 years’ experience, Briony Wickenden is a construction advocate who’s focused on making the industry better for all. With a background in HR, Briony is currently Head of Training and Development at CECA and also heads up the CITB-funded Fairness, Inclusion and Respect (FIR) Programme, which is delivered by the Supply Chain Sustainability School. We spoke with her recently about the programme and making construction more inclusive.
What is the Fairness, Inclusion and Respect programme?
It’s an industry-wide initiative designed to change the culture of UK construction and make the industry’s workplaces better for everyone. We provide free resources and training such as the FIR Toolkit, e-learning modules and Introduction to FIR workshops to any person or company that wants them. In two and a half years, the first two phases of the FIR programme trained 733 individuals at 22 workshops, 473 employers including 225 SMEs. The FIR toolkit was viewed 8,366 times and 38 people became FIR Ambassadors.
During this third phase, to date, we’ve held 24 FIR training workshops, with 570 individuals from 238 different companies completing the course. We’ve also recruited and trained 182 FIR ambassadors from 124 firms.
Why is Fairness, Inclusion and Respect important?
Twenty years ago when I was working for a construction firm, there was an intake of apprentices, a quarter of which were women. As the last female apprentice graduated and left the industry, she told me she was going to join the police force because it was more ‘family friendly’. If the police force’s work life balance is more appealing to a woman than construction, then we’ve got a real problem.
While we need to encourage more people into the industry, we also must try harder to retain staff – otherwise it just gets expensive to keep the revolving door of recruiting people and then seeing them leave because of industry culture. FIR makes good business sense not just because of the cost of recruitment but also because all the evidence suggests that businesses that treat employees fairly and with respect are more profitable and safer places to work. We all want to be happy in our place of work.
How has CITB Funding benefited the programme?
Without funding from CITB, there’s no way the industry could have delivered the amount of FIR training that we have. The majority of companies we’ve been able to train through the programme are SMEs who, generally speaking, are aware of equality and diversity issues but don’t tend to spend a lot on training. The need for SMEs to implement FIR in their workplaces is huge – small firms may be more attune to flexible working but may be less so about behavioural or cultural issues like language.
What change would you like to see in future in UK construction?
In future I’d like to see construction a far more diverse industry in terms of employees, with a reduced pay gap including gender, race and disability. There is no reason why construction can’t better reflect UK society in every respect. For example, with reasonable workplace adjustments those with disabilities can have a fulfilling career. I want everyone to feel comfortable making disclosures on diversity data forms and feel secure and safe in doing so because the industry is inclusive and safe.
We are getting there, the conversation is happening and we must work together to action change for the next generation.
To access the FIR Programme’s free resources please visit www.supplychainschool.co.uk/FIR