Ipswich carpenter wants to see more diversity in building trade
- Credit: Sarah Lucy Brown
A 26-year-old Ipswich carpenter is hoping to offer up an apprenticeship and is urging other young people from black and Asian communities to get into the building industry in a bid to increase diversity.
Ethnic diversity has been a real issue in the construction industry but Awande Luthuli believes getting a trade has been the best thing he could have done, and has now started his own business.
"You don't necessarily hear about trade work," he explained. "They want kids to be lawyers, doctors or support workers.
"Where I'm from South Africa, builders are looked down on, but from my own experience I finished college, no debts and I'm making really good money."
In 2019, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) Labour Force Survey found just 5.4% of construction workers were from the Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) community.
And Awande's parents had told him construction was the wrong place to work, warning him he was likely to encounter racism.
Undeterred, Mr Luthuli trained as a carpenter and started work on a building site.
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He explained he did have moments early on where he was left feeling uncomfortable.
"People on constructions sites are not racist," he said. "But it's like people will say you're the only black person I've ever worked with on a building site.
"This in the 21st Century is quite shoddy."
People on-site would also often make "racist jokes", which he thinks could be combated with awareness courses at construction companies.
At that point in his career, he didn't know what to do but urged others in that position to report incidents to a manager.
He said: "I didn't know I could just tell someone about it and it wouldn't be awkward. It's something I would do now."
Having overcome this, he has thrived in his profession and has a real passion for his work.
He said: "When you start something and just have pieces of wood and then you stand back and see what you've done it is just such an achievement.
"I want to encourage young people into the trade and away from gang violence.
"I don't know anyone who has a trade and is unemployed."
He hopes to take on an apprentice when his own company AQL Carpentry is ready expand, and he plans to take his message to schools in the hope of attracting other members of the BAME community into the industry.