The property sector has a diversity problem; it is dominated by middle aged white men. While it might be argued that there is nothing wrong with this per se – so long as no one is being deliberately excluded – in the long run it is not good for the sector. When your workforce is drawn from one demographic, ‘group think’ and stagnation is a real risk.
Diversity, then, is important for resilience. According to Nick Walkley, however, developers are struggling to recruit fresh faces. ‘Creating vibrant new places and providing quality homes for people should be hugely inspiring career choices,’ says the chief executive of Homes England. ‘Unfortunately, the opposite is true and as an industry we’re really struggling to attract young people to replace those who are retiring in the next few years.’
The developers Capital & Centric believe they have come up with the solution with their mentorship scheme Regeneration Brainery.
Regeneration Brainery, which is backed by Homes England, DLA Piper and Lambert Smith Hampton, aims to inspire young people from a variety of backgrounds to join the development sector. ‘If we’re going to push the boundaries of how our cities and towns grow in the future, we need new ideas and creative thinkers,’ Tim Heatley of Capital & Centric explains.
‘Widening the pool of talent coming into the industry is essential – it will bring fresh experiences, viewpoints, ideas and solutions.’
The scheme is a week long mentoring project where potential recruits work with people from the sector to get an idea of what is on offer. It seeks to showcase the many different opportunities within the sector, including development, architecture, planning, interior and exterior design, construction, communications and property services.
It also provides the recruits (or ‘Brainees’) with work experience and gives employers an opportunity to meet people from different backgrounds.
‘This isn’t some stuffy seminar,’ says Mr Heatley. ‘It involves interactive workshops, visits to construction sites and workplaces, and practical skills to get ahead in the industry. Brainees also get the chance to mix with the movers and shakers of the property sector, building up their networks leading to work experience and jobs.’
Nick Mullins of Lambert Smith Hampton describes the scheme as a ‘fantastic initiative’. ‘I remember growing up without any understanding or knowledge of how to access a career in the property industry,’ he says.
‘I didn’t know the wide range of avenues I could have explored related to the industry and there certainly wasn’t an initiative such as the Regeneration Brainery that actively promoted the industry.’
The Brainery began in Manchester in 2017 and quickly expanded into Birmingham and Bristol. It is currently working with more than a hundred 16-21 year olds each year, and it has more events coming up in London, Sheffield and Manchester.
Greater Manchester’s mayor Andy Burnham is impressed by the initiative: ‘It’s an amazing opportunity for our young people to make connections with potential employers and mentors who can help them to understand the opportunities available to them as they consider their future career.’
Aliza Mian, a former Brainee, agrees. ‘It’s opened my eyes to a whole creative sector I knew little about,’ she says. ‘It has spurred me into actively thinking about a career in regeneration.’
Mr Walkley of Homes England is also supportive of Regeneration Brainery. ‘We need to work much harder and smarter to change perceptions of our industry and show how we’re making it more diverse, more modern and more progressive for young people who want to build a career while contributing to society,’ he says. ‘I’m determined that the new Homes England will show real leadership on these issues, so we didn’t hesitate to support the Regeneration Brainery, which is a brilliant, innovative scheme with real potential.’