Time to listen to the next generation – it’s their future!

Welsh construction must abide by the ideals and goals set out by the Future Generations Act, so why don’t we engage with that future generation more than we do right now, asks Milica Kitson, CEO of CEW

The well-being of Future Generations Act is about improving the social, economic, environmental and cultural well-being of Wales. It has gained a lot of support and gained momentum. But among the strong words about joined up thinking, considering local communities and a long-term approach how often do we consider who the future affects?

We talk about the future – but what about the people living in that future? Who are the future generation? In Welsh construction, the future is represented by G4C (the Generation for Change).

G4C is a sub group of CEW, providing a voice for the young professionals within the Welsh construction industry. They are the very people that will deliver the built environment schemes that need to be driven by the values of the Future Generations Act and underpinned by the circular economy.

Right now, although it has almost 500 members, their voice is not heard. But, rather than run the risk of being silent and forgotten it has set out a vision and its aspirations for the future of Wales and its construction industry. 'Vision for Wales 2025' is a bold document that cuts across the politics of issues like Brexit and rights and wrongs of left or right. It is about having a say in their own future.

Rightly, they are concerned that if their vision of their future is not addressed properly, "we will be yet another disengaged generation who are left to mend the problems created by previous generations of decision makers." Hence, with the support of CEW the G4C leadership team is aiming at the present and discussing its recommendations with senior Welsh Government ministers.

The G4C team is fortunate to be able to influence senior decision makers. But it is not easy. All too often they find they do not have the freedom to attend some of the meetings or CEW breakfast events (that might play a key element in their learning and development) that would benefit them. Likewise, if they had the scope to mix with their peers, then the industry also benefits from the ideas of the future generation. So surely, if we as an industry want to respond to the challenges of the Future Generations Act shouldn't we allow young professionals to help shape and create a Wales that we all want to live in, now and in the future by taking time to share best practice and learning?

A few weeks ago, in this column I argued that we need a vision for Wales. That argument focussed on the need for a bold approach to deciding on and delivering infrastructure for Wales, but the message applies across all of construction, be it public sector or commercial development, civils or building. Whatever the vision it must encompass everyone – it must be inclusive. It cannot be decided upon by the baby-boom generation. We might not all be baby-boomers, but right now, the perception of young professionals is that we're not doing that great a job.

As business leaders, advisers, consultants and as investors we have a duty to listen to the young people who will be implementing ideas, policies and projects. If we do not, then it shows a lack of respect. Worse, it means, young people in Wales and not just members of G4C will inherit something far short of the goals set out by the Future Generations Act.

G4C deserves our attention. More than that, it should be playing a part in things such as the National Infrastructure Commission for Wales (NICfW) and advising on projects that have a direct effect on their generation and the one following them. Let's design and deliver what the future generation wants and needs in a way that fits with their lives. And let's do it by talking and listening to them and not guessing at what might be right for them.

Download: Vision For Wales report
Download: Wales online article
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