The ability for the UK and global economies to recover post COVID has clearly had a boost over the last couple of weeks. The development of at least three seemingly effective vaccines have given a focus to our positivity and shone a glimmer of light on planning and delivering our sector out of the uncertainty and tragedy that this pandemic has brought.
The health of any economy though requires a number of factors: confidence, a good quality and stable government and available resources. This pandemic will be remembered for many things, not least our growing understanding of medical science, our reliance on care workers and those that undertake critical roles in the maintenance and operation of assets. The rolling lockdowns have also given us a real appreciation of what freedoms we enjoy and the fragility and interconnectivity of our planet.
The last year has supercharged our digital revolution, it has highlighted the importance of community and it has brought wellbeing, loneliness and our mental health into sharp focus.
The future, however, is bright, although one of the risks that we must not allow to manifest itself is the threatened generational scarring that this pandemic may cause amongst the young.
A whole pandemic year group and maybe two will have missed out on all the formality and life experience of sitting their GCSE’s or ’A’ levels… A year group that having navigated that damp squib of an end to school life are now suffering faceless on-line lectures as they are locked down in student halls with no real prospect of anything like the ‘university experience’ returning until next year.
A year group that somehow got blamed for spreading the virus by having the audacity to attempt to progress their education at University in spite of COVID-19. The school leavers who have attempted to come in to the workplace straight from school have been confronted by diminishing opportunities for apprenticeships and firms closing the door on any new roles as economic reality bites.
In addition to this school leaving cohort we have also seen some businesses in the built environment furlough and ultimately let go large numbers of their graduate communities, all of which has both an immediate impact on those affected but will also have a long-term effect on our sectors talent pipeline in the future.
This is surely a time to invest in our young people, to take a longer more sustainable view. This younger generation are mostly digital natives, they bring skills and values that will complement and improve all of our working practices. This generation understand the needs of the planet, they are more rounded and grounded with regard to sustainability in its broadest sense and the role we all have in the social and environmental wellbeing of our communities. This is a time to embrace that youth, that enthusiasm, that wide eyed clarity of purpose and harness that for the good of our sector and not discard it due to short term financial pain.
I had the pleasure over the last couple of weeks of helping judge the RICS Young Surveyor of the year, initially in the FM and Asset Management category and then ultimately across all the various pathways within the RICS. Why is that important?
What being a judge has shown me is that we have a wealth of amazing and incredibly diverse talent across our sector… Individuals who are enthusiastic, driven, professional, compassionate and successful. These young people have been nurtured and supported by their managers and businesses and will undoubtedly be a credit to themselves, our sector and their organisations going forward.
The future as I said is bright, but we must not repeat the mistakes of the past and feel that investment in training and developing our future talent is a lever to pull when economic hardships abound. The scarring causing by COVID-19 will be long and deep across our economy and communities, what we must not do in our sector is increase that suffering with our own self-inflicted scars to the very people who are the future of our industry and sector.