For an outsider looking in, just how appealing is the public face of the demolition industry? And is that a contributory factor in the sector’s inability to attract young people into the fold?
Imagine you have no connection to the demolition and construction business. And imagine that your son or your daughter comes home from a careers evening at their school and proudly and excitedly announces that they want to pursue a career in demolition.
You’re a good parent and you want to be supportive; particularly as this sounds a lot more attainable than a career as a YouTube influencer. So you grab your smart phone and you punch into Google the word “demolition” and hit search.
Assuming you are searching chronologically, your first exposure to the industry that has so attracted your son or daughter would be unlikely to fill you with confidence.
In the past week or so, the key industry headlines have read as follows:
A building collapsed unexpectedly into a street in Stevenage. Thankfully, no-one was hurt. A week on, and the road remains closed and an investigation is underway.
A building collapsed while undergoing demolition in the US, killing a demolition worker.
A UK demolition company boss has just been found guilty of stashing highly dangerous asbestos in containers, potentially exposing the public to risk.
And the UK demolition industry finds itself under investigation over alleged collusion. The web of intrigue is apparently so entangled that it is still being unpicked and unravelled three years on.
Suddenly, that alternative career as a YouTube influencer doesn’t sound quite so bad, does it.
A successful career as a YouTuber is virtually impossible. It is right up there with professional footballer, astrophysicist or the person responsible for getting Scarlett Johansson into her Black Widow costume.
But in each of those, the likelihood is that your precious offspring would make it home safely each night.
The likelihood is that they would not be constantly looking over their shoulder, living in fear of investigation or prosecution.
And you, as their parent, wouldn’t be constantly worried about their whereabouts or what they had got themselves into.
Demolition — like construction — offers a superb opportunity to any young person that is willing to graft, to learn their trade; to learn new and hone existing skills.
There is a clearly defined career path that leads to a future of promotion, greater responsibility and a suitably lucrative level of reward. It is also a sector that can create lifelong friendships and partnerships.
I would — and I have — recommended it to friends and relatives.
But, in order for the industry to attract these much-needed young people, it must mend its outward appearance.
As in all walks of life, first impressions matter. And the first impression of demolition is not of exciting and dynamic careers. It is of risk, danger and a somewhat lax approach to the letter of the law.
Each new accident or fatality slams the employment door in the face of a potential new recruit. Each new prosecution means another young person being advised by their protective parents to pursue a career in a less sketchy business sector.
Every business sector has a shop window. The shop window of the tech world, for example, is lit in electric blue and it carries the promise of a futuristic lifestyle and endless opportunity. The shop window of the sporting world offers riches beyond measure; of sporting greatness and of celebrity.
The shop window of demolition right now comprises a pile of rubble that shouldn’t be there, several injured workers, and a growing pile of court papers.
If you knew nothing about demolition, would you push your child towards that shop window?
Mark Anthony is the founder of DemolitionNews.com and the host of The Break Fast Show.