LEGO lessons build foundation for construction sector success

Paul Eyers
Paul Eyers
Could LEGO lessons in the classroom help inspire more young girls to pursue construction sector careers?

Learning maths during first period, English in the second, followed by a lesson in LEGO after morning tea?

It may sound like an unconventional school schedule, but playing with the iconic building blocks during class time is now a reality for many NSW students as industry experts try to find Australia’s next generation of budding tradies.

The popular initiative aims to build the foundations for future construction careers using LEGO bricks, hands-on learning materials, and industry role models to spark an early interest in construction among school-aged children.

Construction firm Multiplex and LEGO Australia co-created the one-day Jump Start program, which teaches students how to plan, create and problem-solve while learning about the design and delivery of typical construction projects. 

With an additional focus on building up interest among girls and demolishing barriers to women, the initiative hopes to boost the industry’s waning tradie numbers as it deconstructs pre-conceived biases over what and who a construction industry worker is. 

Inspiring more girls to consider construction

Following a successful pilot in 2023 at three schools, the 2024 program will roll out to more than 1,500 students at 28 primary schools located near active Multiplex projects in NSW, with a plan to expand nationally in 2025.

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Multiplex design manager Natalie Hayden is one of the industry female role-models tasked with delivering the program, which she says could play an essential role in fixing some of the key reasons why a disproportionate lack of females exists in the construction industry.

“I think the main reason behind women not joining our industry is a lack of understanding and learned gender biases,” she says.

“When we talk to young women in our Jump Start programs, many tell us they had preconceived ideas about what working in construction was all about and didn’t see it as a viable career for them.”

With only 13 per cent of the construction and building industry and less than three per cent of tradies identifying as female, the NSW Government’s Women in Construction report highlights the need for practical exposure during school ages to attract more women into the sector. 

Initially launched in 2018 exclusively for female high school students, the Jump Start program has since expanded to include tailored programs for trade pathways and primary school children.

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Hayden says the industry has built a far more gender-inclusive environment than when she started 13 years ago – despite the remains of outdated biases still lingering. 

“We are seeing more and more women sharing their success stories and hopefully inspiring the next generation,” she says.

“For me, as a mother who has taken parental leave twice over my tenure at Multiplex, I can see how my story has enabled others in the business and wider Industry to see that it is possible to be a full-time working mum returning to site-based roles.”

Jump Start program blueprints

By educating those in years five – six, program industry leaders hope to outbuild any unconscious biases before they develop in students’ later years.

“Unconscious biases begin early and shape the way that girls see themselves and their potential. In my mind, building girls’ creative confidence is an enabler of female empowerment, permitting them to set their sights on careers that they may not have considered before – like construction,” Hayden says.

“This is important to dismantle before entering high school, where electives are considered as early as years seven and eight. We are showing them what a construction career is like so that they can see it, believe it and be it.”

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Paul Eyers has worked as a journalist for a range of media publishers including News Corp and Network Ten. He has also worked outside of Australia, including time spent with ABS-CBN in the Philippines. His diverse experiences and unique journey have equipped him with a singular perspective on the world.