Creating opportunities for women in the construction industry

Michael O'Sullivan UK Workforce & Compliance Leader
3 min read

Last month 17.4 million of us watched the Lionesses win the European Championships and bring home England’s first international cup since 1966. From that we have seen a nationwide discussion around the growth of women’s football and legends of the game, Alex Scott and Ian Wright, address the need for creating better grassroot opportunities for women in football.

The construction industry faces a similar dilemma. With only 13% of women in trade/onsite roles in construction and the industry facing a skills shortage, the question is ‘how do we create onsite opportunities for women and how do we make the roles more appealing?’

Since we launched our global sustainability targets in April 2021, we have been working on implementing action plans and policies that will attract a more diverse range of people into the construction industry. We recently launched our equal parenthood policy in the UK and Australia and have also introduced market leading rates and benefits for our UK workforce.

We’re also concentrating our minds on different ways of recruiting and reaching under-represented groups, including women. As a result, we have partnered with not-for-profit organisation Women into Construction and training provider, The Skills Centre, to provide a two-week women-only pre-apprenticeship programme, which provides an insight into our steelfixing and formwork carpentry roles and gears up participants to hit the ground running when they take up their full-time apprenticeship on site.

As part of the programme, the participants attend an information day, a three-day site-based pre-employment programme, and then a two-week pre-apprenticeship programme. Throughout, each participant is assessed with regular feedback sessions taking place.

We ran our first programme recently and now, 12 women have been employed as full-time apprentices on two of our projects – Future Olympia and Old Oak Common – working alongside some of the industry’s most experienced construction minds.

One of the driving forces behind the programme is our belief that it is important that young girls can see themselves in the construction industry, to show that it is a viable career, and so we need to ensure they have role models to look up to. Initiatives like our women-only pre-apprenticeship programme create a supportive environment for an under-represented group to thrive, and to go on to establish themselves across our UK projects.

We are delighted to welcome the 12 women from our first cohort and excited to see how they progress on our projects. This is the start of something special at Laing O’Rourke, and while the glass ceiling may still be there for women in all sectors across the country, programmes like this will help us to breakthrough – one crack at a time.

We will launch a new pre-employment programme in October, which is open to everybody in London and the south east. Keep your eyes on our careers website and social pages for launch day.


of people in trade/onsite roles are women


women awarded full-time apprenticeships