New president calls for diversity to meet challenges

logo_ciobJames Wates, the new President of the CIOB, used his address in Shanghai today to call for greater diversity in construction.

Deputy chairman of Wates Group and chairman of the industry training board, CITB-ConstructionSkills, Mr. Wates said the industry would not be able to meet the technical, economic and sustainability challenges it faces if it continued failing to attract not just women but people of different ethnic backgrounds, ages and class as well.

“A healthy industry is one populated with different views and different ways of doing things,” he told delegates at the final day of the CIOB’s annual general meeting. “I am not suggesting that we should throw away all that has gone before. But I am saying we must continue to adapt and to push the boundaries of what we can achieve.

“That is why diversity is so important for the built environment. Because today’s industry won’t be the same as tomorrow’s and we face different tests than we have before.

It is not easy breaking stereotypes, and it’s not something any single organisation or company can do alone.”

He said the CIOB can play its part.

“Like other parts of the industry the CIOB is working with government and the education system to improve careers advice. This is just one of a number of areas that needs development. Our industry has been severely undersold to young minds from all backgrounds and is too often seen as a fallback measure rather than the career of choice. In part we need to educate the educators and advise the advisors about what we actually do, and what a career in our amazing industry offers.”

With a background in contracting and current chairman of the UK Contractors Group, Mr. Wates added that the CIOB can teach other industries a thing or two about attracting talent from disadvantaged backgrounds. “Many of the top CEOs from across the globe have come from the poorest backgrounds. The CIOB is working with UK Government on the Fair Access to the Professions panel, sharing our experiences and learning from others.”

Mr. Wates had high praise for his predecessor, Prof. Li Shirong, the first female and non-British president in the institute’s history.

“For certain your appointment really has created a buzz in the media and everywhere else besides. Through your insatiable ability to network you have connected the CIOB with organisations and people that I doubt we would have reached before. With your help we will build on those relationships.

“Not only that, but such is the momentum of your Presidency, you’ve even moved us from Ascot to Shanghai. In short, you have changed us – and it is for the better.”

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