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‘People and money,’ a report produced by Arcadis, found that a failure to attract staff to the construction industry is one of the main barriers to increased housing supply (rather than the availability of land and the planning system); apparently, young people just don’t want to work on building sites. 
 
Given the decent wages construction can offer, and the significant youth unemployment, this seems puzzling, and it sparked an animated debate at a recent UK Regeneration conference. A number of answers came forward; an unwillingness on the part of volume housebuilders to provide decent apprenticeships (they typically don’t provide any training, seeing this as the job of the contractors they work with); others put it down to the  traditional British distain for ‘working with your hands.’ While these undoubtedly have some weight, there is nothing new in them; they do not explain why a shortage has hit now. 
 
The person who suggested the industry was not attractive to millennials seemed to me to get closer to the root cause. A great many of this generation aspire to go into sectors of the economy that call on emotional intelligence and creativity; the reputation of the construction industry for racism, sexism and homophobia cannot but deter many.  
 
For the Conservative party, when trying to reposition themselves as a caring, centrist party in touch with contemporary values, the position on equal rights for gay people became a touch-stone issue. Their embrace of the gay cause ultimately led to the extension of the right to marry to same sex couples. 
 
What does this have to do with the world of construction? In August of this year, the Architects Journal found that 85% of gay people working in construction had experienced homophobic abuse, and only 10% would recommend the industry as a great place to work for gay men and women. 
 
This attitude is not just deterring gay people from joining the construction workforce; the willingness to treat gay people as equals has become a badge of all intelligent, forward thinking people. 
 
It is also telling the industry has one of the worst records for productivity and innovation. The failure on the part of the industry to stamp-out prejudice is one of the prime reasons it is failing. 

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