LJMU Outreach Team & School of the Built Environment welcome Year 12 students

Case Study FourNearly fifty Year 12 students and their tutors were welcomed to the University recently for a built environment information and careers day. They attended information sessions withLJMU staff and students and were given the opportunity to get ‘hands on’ experience in a variety of activities such as tower building with pasta and testing the strength of building materials. School Director, Professor Mike Riley, said: “Events such as this give us a real opportunity to showcase the exciting opportunities for careers in the built environment to local schools and colleges.

“Those who choose to enter these careers have a real opportunity to have an influence on the sustainable development of our physical and natural environment. Engaging with them before they make final decisions about university applications and career choices allows us to gain an insight into the issues that they see as important as well as allowing us to provide them with enough information to make informed choices about their future. “

font-family: Arial;”>;”>The event was a collaboration between the School of the Built Environment and the LJMU Outreach Team, who promoted the event to their extensive network of contacts in local schools and colleges. The day will be followed up with sessions including – ‘Applying through UCAS and Personal Statements’ and ”Student Finance’. If you would like to work with the LJMU Outreach Team on your own event, email:   outreach@ljmu.ac.uk

How gendering toys is on the rise again and why this is bad for the built environment

Christmas time is upon us, and the shops are heaving with people out to get presents for the kids. If you don’t have any of your own, and you don’t see your nearest kid relatives often enough to get a good idea what they would like, don’t panic. The shops have a handy way for you to prevent a terrible faux pas – there are separate areas for boys’ and girls’ toys. The easy way to tell is that the girls’ toy area is mostly pink. Disaster averted!


It would have been much more difficult a few decades back. My own days as a nipper were during the mid-70’s to mid-80’s (making me part of good old cynical Gen X). I can honestly say I have no memory of my sister, or any of the girls at school having any pink toys. In fact I remember there would be merciless mocking for any girl who was seen wearing pink. It was considered ‘drippy’ and ‘babyish’. It seems that kids back then were less interested in Princesses, and more interested in filling their pockets with interesting snails (they made a great noise if they got into the washing machine). There were pink and pastel blue toys, but only really for the pre-school age group. So how did we get from there to here? How new is this idea, and is there anything that can/should be done about it?


Interestingly, the idea that pink is a feminine colour, and blue a masculine one, only stems from the early 20th Century. In fact, an editorial from an American society magazine from 1918 states:


“There has been a great diversity of opinion on the subject, but the generally accepted rule is pink for the boy and blue for the girl. The reason is that pink being a more decided and stronger color is more suitable for the boy; while blue, which is more delicate and dainty, is prettier for the girl.”


It seems the whole matter was cleared up in America. Two rival shops sold kids clothes in opposite colours and the winner was decided on sales. Before this time boys and girls were largely dressed identically, including the same hairstyles (look on google – it’s hilarious). So we have the origin, for clothes at least.


The whole idea seems to have been a slow burner toy-wise. It only appears to be in the last ten or fifteen years that the division has become ubiquitous. Recently there has been a small (and misguided) attempt at a fight-back. Toys that encourage building your own things (Lego, Chemistry sets, electronics kits etc.) have been brought out in a special ‘girl edition’ pink variety. Why? Who would do that? Surely small plastic linking blocks should be the colour of the thing you make out of them, or even better a complete mix of all the colours from a Lego set, just because they fit? There has even recently been released a set of toys from a company called ‘Goldiblox’, to encourage girls into engineering and science. Guess what colours dominate…you guessed it – pinks and pastels!


The problem here isn’t that you need to make special pink toys to get girls interested in Construction and engineering – from my experience they’re interested anyway. It’s more a problem of adults being marketed to in such a way that they see it as somehow wrong for girls to play with toys that aren’t pink and can be encouraged to buy things twice.. Think about it. Have you ever met a kid who wasn’t at their happiest covered in unidentifiable filth and doing something downright fiendish with their toys? Kids will naturally play with anything they’re given, and usually not in the way that was intended (how often is the box something comes in given more attention than the gift inside?). Children are curious about the world around them. Hence all the poking of things with sticks, the licking of interesting paint, and the seeing how many of the things in the kitchen can be mixed up in a bowl before they get caught. There could be an argument that says kids don’t need to be encouraged into science and engineering; all they need is for grown-ups not to get in the way.


This week’s blog was written by Matt, Training Manager at Constructing Equality Ltd and former teacher.

What is the business case for diversity in the built environment?

There are a number of reasons why considering diversity is good for your business these include:
  • To prevent legislative costs,
  • To reap the benefits of employing a diverse team,
  • To increase success on public sector tenders,
  • To create a more supportive working environment.
When considering the business case you really need to think about what area of the business you are focusing on and what the business case means to you for example do you value the bottom line, employee retention or productivity as a priority?
The research is stronger in some areas than others for example women on strategic boards is an area currently receiving a lot of attention due to the Davies report and the direction France, Spain and Norway have taken with regards to quotas. The wonderful catalyst has also been doing great work for 50 years this year looking at the benefits of gender equality.
Yet diversity isn’t all about gender, what about people from different ethnic and religious communities or those who for some other reason experience life in a different way to the majority? In construction there hasn’t been too much research looking at a tangible business argument though there is research from outside of the sector.
The current research suggests that there is an argument for diversity when it is well managed and understood. Unfortunately a badly thought through strategy can have a negative impact on your business which is why I would always advise clients to avoid undertaking a tick box approach – it’s likely to cost you more in the long run.
The idea behind the business model is that you should be attracting a diverse workforce not to predominantly “do the right thing” or “ensure fairness for all” but in fact to strengthen your productivity and bottom line. Here are some examples of how diversity can be a positive to your organisation.
Become an employer of choice.
For minorities in construction, the support they will receive from their employer is an important factor in choosing who they will work for. It therefore stands to reason that if you can promote high retention rates and support services, you will find more interest from not only minorities but the top end of the workforce in general. A series of surveys by Target Jobs in 2008 into construction found work life balance and development opportunities to be the most important factors in deciding upon an employer.
Improve business performance
Here it’s important to note that the research suggests that a well-managed group of diverse employees will improve your productivity and profit in a number of ways which include mirroring your client base, having a wider pool of experience and creativity and being able to tap into more networks. But if the group is not well managed, the same cannot be said.
Change appears to happen at strategic level when there are more than three women on a board; in fact a US study of fortune 500 companies found that those with 3+ women on the board all reported significantly stronger than average profits.
At tactical level research has found that diverse groups outperform more capably homogeneous groups, which backs up the theory that different experiences provide us with different viewpoints and solutions.
Retain knowledge and experience
Research into diversity in construction suggests that more could have been done to stop the majority of women leaving the construction industry. What’s more compelling is the amount of money that could have been saved if we had. A 2009 government report “Engaging for success: enhancing performance through employee engagement.” put the cost of replacing an employee roughly equivalent to their salary, once training, corporate knowledge and intellectual capita are considered. The same report found that committed employees are 87% less likely to leave their organisations than those less engaged; they also perform 20% better. Instead of thinking can we afford to support our staff? Isn’t it time we started to question if we can afford not to?
Skills Shortage
The latest skills survey from the CIOB finds 72% of respondents felt there was still a skills shortage. Without recruiting from the entire selection pool we are not only failing to meet demand for numbers but also failing to find the best candidates for the roles available. Increasingly a number of smaller studies have found that young men are also avoiding construction due to its macho image and male dominance. In short, to ensure that we encourage the best recruits, we need to offer the most appealing, diverse and professional environment.
Meet procurement standards and stakeholder requirements
Public authorities need to meet the equality duties of The Equality Act 2010 and more importantly, so do their subcontractors. With 60% of current work coming from this sector that’s big news for contractors. By being able to align your organisation to the needs of your client you are putting yourself in a solid position to win more work.
With a large percentage of women and minorities now making procurement decisions for public sector work they want to see themselves represented in your workforce, so if all you have to offer is middle aged white men, it might not be enough.
Happy building, Chrissi

For all things construction and equality, get yourself over to the Constructing Equality Ltd. website.


  1. Chrissy,
    Very nobel sentiments but I am afraid the ‘bottom line’ is the critical element. This must be positive or no business of any description. To enable to business to function you need work but I have yet to find the way to pick and choose what work you do. You do the work you can get by whatever means, as astutely as you can and if you can afford some nobel aspirational choices that is fine and may auger well for the future when you would hope to repeat them. But then you are back to what work you can obtain and making a profit.



    1. HI CHRISSY,