Built by Us is a London-based group aiming to grow diversity and inclusion in the UK built environment professions. Activities and ambitions include creating accessible mentoring programs, changing team cultures and growing diverse leadership.
Built by Us was established in 2016 in Brixton, London. The group currently comprises four people in the team and three advisory board members, with the intention of recruiting an additional two team members.
Their audience ranges from people looking for entry roles in the construction sector job market, to professionals across the industry either looking to return from a break or to progress their careers, through to entrepreneurs within two years of starting a built environment business or looking to start one. The group also assists businesses that want to develop best practice EDI strategies and policies in order to diversify their workforce, grow their talent pool, enable innovation, broaden ambitions and better reflect the society they serve.
Motivations and issues to address
The prime motivator for starting the group was frustration borne from the continuous loss of vital talent and skills from the sector. It is a well-known fact that the industry is traditionally white, male and inward looking. It generally recruits like-minded people with similar life experiences, thereby creating barriers or denying entry to those from different socio-economic or cultural backgrounds. It has been proven that diversity is good for business and that it brings new talent, innovation and different lived-experiences that the industry desperately needs. Over the next decade, more people are due to retire from the built environment sector than to enter it, from traditional routes. It is essential that a broader spectrum of society is given access to the employment opportunities that this sector offers, in order to benefit society as a whole.
We aim to challenge leaders to think about bias of any form, be it conscious or unconscious and spanning gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation, religious bias or discrimination towards people with a disability. We aim to open up opportunities for everyone so that the industry better reflects the society it serves and provides for the needs of everyone in society.
Activities and action underway
Built By Us runs three different mentoring programs ranging from entry level to entrepreneurship. BUILD is for new entrants wanting to explore the many and varied employment opportunities that the sector has to offer. FLUID is about retaining skilled professionals who are seeking guidance with career progression. SHAPE is a mentoring program, with workshops, for entrepreneurs within two years of starting or thinking about starting a business.
FLUID is an annual program that connects volunteer mentors and mentees from across the built environment industry. Our mentees have a wide range of experiences, skills and talents. Built By Us prioritises people who face intersectional barriers to success. Since its beginnings in 2012, it has helped more than 600 students and professionals within the industry to progress their careers and return from a career break. Importantly, it has helped retain talent in the industry that would otherwise have sought employment elsewhere. FLUID has provided more than 7500 hours of mentoring, with 87% of participants reporting improved confidence, and 70% reporting improved careers.
Plans for the future
Built By Us is constantly reviewing its work. We plan to scale our work so that we can create greater social impact for the communities we serve. We are excited to be planning for the next cohorts of our mentoring programs.
Challenges and impact of COVID-19
The industry has improved its understanding of the importance of diversity and inclusion but it doesn’t always know where to start or how to begin. Making that change can be a difficult and slow process, which needs good listening skills, understanding and careful guidance.
Since the pandemic began, Built By Us has been working harder than ever in its mentoring programs and in its consultancy work with businesses looking to change and improve the inclusiveness of their organisations. COVID has highlighted the need for opportunities for employment.
Advice to others
Advocacy at its core is about ensuring that all people are able to have their voices heard, along with promoting and protecting their rights. The work requires resilience, understanding and patience – make sure that you are taking the time to amplify others and also to nurture yourself as it is not for the fainthearted.