Construction reluctant to hire people with criminal convictions

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A new report by the Chartered Institute of Building (CIOB) is urging the government to break down barriers blocking people with criminal records from working in construction.

The study, called Building Opportunity: Employing People with Criminal Convictions in Construction, found that just 25% of construction executives say they would hire people with a criminal conviction – despite the sector facing a significant skills shortage.

Some of the challenges faced by people with a criminal record when entering the industry include negative perceptions, fears about the company’s reputation, and concerns over existing employees’ safety, particularly in a high-risk environment like a construction site.

CIOB is asking the government to provide more accessible training opportunities to improve individuals’ employability and ease construction’s skills shortage.

A solution to the labour crisis?

More than 12 million people in the UK have a criminal record with hundreds of thousands of convictions remaining unspent. Candidates must declare their convictions when applying for a job.

Statistics show nearly 75% of people leaving prison are still without work six months after their release. Meanwhile, it is estimated that 225,000 additional construction workers will be needed to meet demand by 2027, according to data from the Construction Industry Training Board, and demand for construction work is likely to increase in the years ahead.

Despite these discouraging statistics, some contractors in the industry are implementing programmes to recruit ex-offenders. Last year, a recruitment company launched a programme backed by Bouygues UK, Willmott Dixon, ISG and Bam to support people in the last 12 weeks of their sentence to secure a job in construction.

‘A second chance at life’

CIOB says breaking down barriers for people with criminal records would lower unemployment among people with criminal convictions and help construction bridge its skills gap.

Niamh Evans, CIOB’s policy and public affairs officer north, said more people within the industry should consider an open-minded approach to hiring people looking for a fresh start. “Construction companies across the UK are facing a labour shortage and there is an untapped market of potential candidates waiting to be unearthed,” she said.

“However, negative stigma and a lack of access to proper training for people in prison means there are many people missing out on a second chance at life.

“Companies can proactively show they are willing to consider applicants with a criminal record by making this known on their website and teaming up with organisations that support people with criminal convictions to find work.

“While there are some training opportunities available for people with criminal convictions, we would like to see improved access to give more candidates a chance to develop their skills ahead of a rewarding career within construction.”

The report is based on a survey of 270 construction industry representatives across 133 businesses carried out by CIOB in September/October 2023.

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  1. Barriers need to be broken down with project commissioners firstly. Working on LA frameworks we have received significant resistance to having any ex offenders on their projects.

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