Kier Group

Construction output continues to slip

Construction output in the UK has continued its recent decline with February Office for National Statistics figures showing that the sector suffered a 1.6 per cent month-on-month fall, and compared with February 2017, construction output fell 3.0 per cent; the biggest month-on-year fall since March 2013.

The three-month on three-month decrease in construction output was driven predominantly by the continued decline in repair and maintenance work, which fell by 2.6 per cent in February.

The construction output decrease in the month-on-month series, contracting by 1.6 per cent in February, stemmed from a 9.4 per cent decrease in infrastructure new work.

The ONS also said it had received some anecdotal information from a small number of its survey respondents regarding the effect of the snow on their businesses in the final week of February 2018.

It said the adverse weather conditions across Great Britain could have potentially contributed to the decline in construction output, although it is difficult to quantify the exact impact on the industry.

Allan Callaghan, managing director of Cruden Building, said: “While I’m glad to report that Cruden is bucking market trends and performing strongly, it’s true to say that right now is a tough time forconstruction.

“With less than a year to go until Brexit, the twin pressures of rising material costs and a decreasing workforce are only being exacerbated. Although Cruden and many others in the Scottish construction industry have been working to plug the current skills gaps for some time, the spectre of Brexit is casting a shadow of uncertainty over what it will mean for materials costs and the ability to retain skilled labour.

“We need decisive action from Government to secure trade and labour agreements that will support the construction industry in delivering on Scotland’s housebuilding and wider infrastructure targets.”

Gordon Reidregional business development manager, Kier Construction Scotland, said: “These figures reflect ongoing challenges for the industry and output has been down for a long while. However, in contrast, Kier has recently announced a solid set of half-year financial results where we have grown our business, expanded our order book and secured a robust pipeline of activity.

“Heritage is a particular growth sector for Kier Construction Scotland. We have just been appointed as the contractor to support Glasgow Life in their refurbishment of The Burrell Collection.  Returning iconic buildings to their former glory is hugely rewarding and provides plenty of opportunities to attract a diverse range of new talent to the industry. We will continue to focus on showcasing the breadth of career opportunities that the construction industry has to offer, and highlight the significant boost that our sector delivers to the Scottish economy.”

hub South West partnership with East Ayrshire Council and Kier Construction hands over £45m Kilmarnock Campus

hub South West, the construction and infrastructure-focused partnership which works with local authorities and private sector enterprises in Lanarkshire, Ayrshire and Dumfries and Galloway, has handed over the £45 million William McIlvanney Campus in Kilmarnock to East Ayrshire Council.

The campus – named for the Scottish novelist, who was born in Kilmarnock and started out as a teacher – represents an amalgamation of Kilmarnock Academy and James Hamilton Academy into one campus, along with Silverwood Primary, New Farm Primary and the Early Childhood Centre.

The main contractor was leading property, residential and services group, Kier Construction, and the architect was NORR, the UK arm of the global NORR practice, with support from Edinburgh-based landscape architects Rankin Fraser.

Work on the project started in March 2016, and Deputy First Minister, John Swinney, unveiled the foundation stone in October 2016. £24.5 of funding, representing more than half of the total value of the project, was provided by the Scottish Government.

The campus will accommodate 1,465 secondary and 383 primary school pupils, as well as 80 morning and 80 afternoon early years’ pupils. A centre of excellence for Gaelic language development will be based at the campus.

Local businesses enrol in hub South West’s eighth Building for Growth Programme

Gordon Hunter

hub South West’s eighth Building for Growth programme is now underway with more local businesses signed up in expectation of winning new work from Scotland’s Tier 1 contractors.

The bespoke business development initiative is open to any company looking to grow in a sustainable manner by building the skills and internal capacity to take on increasing volumes of business and, as a result could win new work from participating contactors.

The Building for Growth programme, aimed at ambitious businesses in construction and related sectors based in Lanarkshire, Ayrshire and Dumfries and Galloway, is run by hub South West, a public-private partnership of local authorities, NHS, blue light services and a clutch of leading construction industry Tier 1 contractors including Morrison, Graham, Morgan Sindall, Ashleigh and Kier.

The current programme, from which 62 local businesses have already graduated, got under way on 21 March and is scheduled to run through until early June. It comprises 8 half-day sessions (10.00am-2.00pm) over a period of 12 weeks. Throughout the spring 2018 session workshops will focus on topics such as smart tendering, innermetrix profiling, strategic growth and exit options, marketing planning, supplier development programmes, corporate social responsibility and pitching for business.

Gordon Hunter, hub South West’s supply chain manager, who manages the Building for Growth programme, said: “There are a lot of good businesses out there, but some have areas where they need to build capacity if they want to rise to the next level.

“For example, many are relying too heavily on the skills of one key person, some of the IT practices are not very efficient or robust, and marketing communications can vary from the sublime to the almost non-existent.

“A golden rule of the programme is ‘no competitors’, leaving participants free to discuss any business issues, challenges and opportunities in a safe and supportive environment with a like-minded group of business people.”

Gary Thorn, founder and MD of Cumbernauld-based Cube Glass, who won the Best final Presentation Award at the culmination of the seventh Building for Growth Programme in November last year, said: “I learned a great deal from this programme and I will be ever-grateful to hub South West for giving me the opportunity to participate.

“At first I thought it would be impossible for me to take eight half-days away from the business to attend but, in fact, taking time away from my day to day concerns gave me the opportunity to sit back and look at our long term development and to improve the chances of Cube Glass winning work from some of the Tier One contractors.”

Michael McBrearty, chief executive of hub South West, added: “Our aim is to help generate growth in the local economy through innovative methods of partnership working and procurement which also provide value for money solutions.

“Our Building for Growth programme has already delivered success to the leaders of its participating companies by both broadening and deepening their grasp of the factors needed to win more new, bigger contracts from Tier One contractors and we hope and trust that all of the participants in our eighth Building for Growth programme will follow in their footsteps.”

List of delegates

Company Location Sector
JD Scaffolding Bargeddie Scaffolding
Murray Landscapes Motherwell Landscape Contracting
Emtec Branding Cumbernauld Signage
VWS Cumbernauld CCTV/Alarms/Fire
Belac Eurocentral Utilities/ Construction
IG Contracts Stewarton Groundworks
Hire and Supplies Dumfries/ Oban Plant Hire
Catherinefield Windows Dumfries Window Manufacture
Cube Glass Cumbernauld Glass Partitions
CSP Acoustics Glasgow Acoustics Consultants
Dow Waste Management Cumbernauld Waste and Recycling
Atlas Business Interiors Dumfries Design, space planning, FFE
Naturally Compliant Glasgow Environmental CoW


Contractors support new course to encourage more females into construction

Infrastructure partnership hub South West is throwing its weight behind a new initiative which is aimed at encouraging greater female career participation in the construction sector.

In partnership with its main contracting partners – Kier, GRAHAM, Morrisons and Morgan Sindall – hub South West is supporting the Females into Construction course, facilitated by New College Lanarkshire.

The course, which has no formal entry requirements, will be open to 16 female S5 pupils, and provides a National 5 qualification in Construction Crafts. On completion, students can progress to pre-apprenticeships or progress onto a professional career route of higher national certificate level.

Michael McBrearty, chief executive of hub South West, said: “The course aims to encourage young females who are interested in a career in construction, while highlighting the varying career paths into the industry.

“Throughout the course, students will have the opportunity to visit sites managed by the supporting contractors, where they can observe a variety of construction roles in action.”

New College Lanarkshire, which recently was rated among the UK top three institutions for skills at WorldSkills UK, will run the course from April 30 to June 29 at its Motherwell Campus.

The course will include painting and decorating, masonry work, carpentry and joinery as well as visits to live construction sites, ambassador talks, visits to design offices at regional headquarters, CSCS specific safety training and work placements.

Students who are interested in pursuing a professional career path in construction may have the opportunity to join the college’s Built Environment or computer aided architectural design and technology.

Amanda Wright, social impact manager for Kier Construction Scotland, said: “We are delighted to support this important initiative. All of our sites are looking forward to sharing our knowledge and showcasing the wide range of diverse and very rewarding career opportunities that exist for women, both within Kier Construction Scotland, and throughout the construction industry.”

Morrison Construction community skills manager, Jim Johnstone, said: “We are proud to be part of this great initiative to help encourage more women into our industry and we are excited to showcase the wide variety of careers that are available in construction.

“Diversity in the workforce will only make our industry stronger as it encourages greater creativity and collaboration in the workplace.”

Stuart Parker, managing director of Morgan Sindall in Scotland, said: “We’re committed to promoting the construction industry and the rewarding careers it can to offer to all young people; but encouraging more female entrants to join the workforce is of particular importance.

“At Morgan Sindall, more than 18% of our personnel are women. That’s an increase from 10% two years ago and substantially higher than the national sector average of 12%. As an industry, there’s still work to be done.

“Close collaboration between businesses, schools and colleges is critical to effecting real change and we’re proud to be a key partner in hub South West’s initiative.”

Debbie Rutherford, regional community benefit advisor at GRAHAM Construction, said: “It’s fantastic to be involved with this course. We are very much looking forward to meeting the students and helping them throughout their journey.

“It’s important to us that young people, no matter their gender, are educated on the various routes to employment and are inspired and encouraged along the way.”

Kier Construction Scotland helps deliver ‘solid’ results for parent group

The ongoing success of Kier Construction Scotland has contributed to an underlying growth in both profits and revenue in the first half for its parent company Kier Group.

Announcing its results for the six month period ended 31 December 2017, Kier said it remains on course to deliver double-digit profit growth this year and hit its 2020 strategic targets, despite being hit by delayed project starts towards the end of last year.

The group reported an 8% increase in revenue to £2,154 million, while underlying operating profit of £60m was up 5%.

Kier Construction Scotland, which employs over 200 people from its offices including Glasgow, Aberdeen and Inverness, has maintained turnover stability at approximately £150m per annum and is gearing up for the future growth target of £200m by 2020.

Brian McQuade

Brian McQuade, managing director of Kier Construction Scotland, said: “Kier Construction Scotland has a robust pipeline of activity, thanks to a number of important framework and tender wins. We have secured a place on fourteen national frameworks across Scotland and this includes our most recent appointment as Tier One contractor to hub West, where we will deliver a range of public sector capital works projects throughout west central Scotland. We are also a principal supply chain partner under Frameworks Scotland 2 to build a £34.5m elective care facility at Golden Jubilee National Hospital in Clydebank.

“We have added to our strong education portfolio with a number of contract wins, including our appointment by the University of Edinburgh to carry out the £7.7m transformation of Murchison House into a dynamic, multi-functional teaching and study hub, and our appointment to the University of Strathclyde’s £250m Framework for Major Building Construction to support the delivery of its ongoing Capital Investment Plan.

“Our unique expertise in the heritage sector continues to flourish as we have been appointed as the contractor to support Glasgow Life in their £66m refurbishment of one of Scotland’s national treasures – The Burrell Collection.  This is an exciting addition to the work we are currently carrying out in this specialist area, including the restoration of the Mackintosh Building for Glasgow School of Art and the refurbishment of listed buildings at Edinburgh College of Art and Aberdeen Music Hall.

“While these fascinating projects bring the chance to attract new talent and hone expert skills, the sector is battling against a skills shortage, made worse by an outdated perception of the construction industry. To help combat this, Kier has pledged one percent of our workforce as part of our Shaping Your World campaign to act as school career ambassadors in a bid to highlight the breadth of diverse career opportunities in construction and the significant boost that the sector delivers to the economy.”

Kier’s Property division performed ahead of its 15% ROCE target while the Residential division’s return on capital is progressing towards its 15% target as the mixed tenure housing business matures.

Revenue in the Construction division decreased by 7%, mainly as a result of delays in the commencement of certain projects to the second half of the financial year. Although the Construction division’s margins declined from 2.0% to 1.8% during the period, principally as a result of the effects of the final costs of closing the Caribbean and Hong Kong businesses (£7.7m), Kier said it expects that margins will increase in the second half of the financial year.

Haydn Mursell, chief executive, said: “The Group is performing well. Our £9.5bn Construction and Services order book, combined with our £3.5bn pipeline in the Property and Residential divisions, provides good visibility of work over the medium term.

“The Group’s performance reflects the strength of our business model and our financial and operational disciplines. Our portfolio of businesses provides balance and resilience and our approach to risk management is evident in the margin performance we have delivered over many years. We remain on course to deliver double-digit profit growth in 2018 and to achieve our Vision 2020 strategic targets.”

Setting my ‘sites’ on a thriving career in construction

Amanda Byrne

From enrolling at Waterford Institute of Technology in Ireland to working on Edinburgh College of Art, site manager Amanda Byrne tells SCN how her journey has led to a rewarding career at Kier Construction Scotland.

People are always surprised when I tell them that I’m a construction site manager. ‘That’s not a job for a woman, surely?’ is usually the response I get. It just goes to show that appearances can be deceiving!

Growing up, I had my heart set on becoming a sports journalist. I was good at English, I liked travelling and played rugby and cricket at school, so it seemed like the perfect job.

By the time I finished school, the construction industry in Ireland was booming and I opened my mind to seriously thinking of a career in this industry. I enrolled in a four year Construction Management degree at Waterford Institute of Technology in the south of Ireland and my journey started from there.

During the summer breaks I worked for a large construction company, getting on-the-job experience of site management. I learned a huge amount and by the time I graduated, the firm took me on full time as an Assistant Site Manager.

I thrived in this environment – the fact that two days aren’t the same, working with different people, finding solutions to overcome daily challenges and the sheer satisfaction of seeing a building come out of the ground before your eyes, all adds up to a really rewarding job.

In 2003, I was ready for my next challenge and took up a position at Kier Construction Scotland. Since then I’ve been involved in several major construction projects and was promoted to Site Manager in 2007.

“I’m so glad that I was never put off considering a career in this fantastic industry which has rewarded me so much.”

Amanda Byrne

With Kier, I’ve had the privilege of working at some major projects at Edinburgh Airport, Fetes College, the Western General Hospital and now the Edinburgh College of Art, to name just a few.

I’ve never experienced any set-backs from being a woman in construction. I’m also lucky to have a great boss and together we make a fantastic double act!

There’s no doubt that there is still a perception that the construction industry is dirty, cold and that we generally dig things! It’s really not the case. Of course, I spend some of my time out of the office, patrolling the site, checking quality and safety, but equally I spend much of my time being office based and having briefings and meetings and working with a large team of tradespeople, architects and engineers. It’s a great feeling being part of a big team and I’ve developed a solid knowledge of so many aspects of construction.

Equally, there are loads of training and development opportunities within Kier. Soon I’m heading off to Edinburgh Zoo for an ecology day to learn more about protected species and plants – every day really is a school day!

Undoubtedly the construction industry is facing a skills shortage. It’s important that people begin to see past the traditional construction roles and consider the numerous careers available to young people, especially young women.

A recent report commissioned by Kier showed that 66% of teachers and careers advisors held negative views of the construction industry as a route for their students to pursue and 73% of parents wouldn’t want their children to even consider a career in the sector.

These findings make for shocking reading and I’m so glad that I was never put off considering a career in this fantastic industry which has rewarded me so much.

I’m really pleased Kier is working to change this perception and has pledged one percent of its workforce to act as career ambassadors in schools and colleges over the next 12 months engaging with the next generation of talent.

For my part, I’m currently working with Kier on a series of careers fairs throughout Scotland, raising the profile of construction and inspiring people to consider a role in this hugely rewarding and thriving sector. I’ve been working with high school pupils at careers fairs to try open their minds and help them consider that there are so many diverse roles within this industry – and very few of them involve digging!

Catch up with the rest of Scottish Construction Now’s International Women’s Day feature here.

Counting my blessings for my career in construction

Ashley Dunsmore

Kier Construction Scotland’s assistant quantity surveyor, Ashley Dunsmore, says she got the construction bug by watching ‘Megastructures’ and haggling at foreign markets.

I had absolutely no clue what a quantity surveyor was or did when I was at school. Throughout secondary school it’s fair to say that I wasn’t encouraged to consider a career in construction. At the annual careers fair, construction firms were nowhere to be seen. Instead, a job in the fire service, the police or as a beautician was all that was on offer.

None of these roles spoke to my inner geek. I loved watching the Discovery Channel and the programme ‘Megastructures’. When I was aged 14 and on holiday with my family, I took to haggling at the local markets like a duck to water.  My mum said I should think about a career as a quantity surveyor. And so my journey began…..

I ended up doing a four year, full-time quantity surveying degree at Glasgow Caledonian University. Girls were definitely in the minority, representing only ten percent of students on my course.

I did a placement during my third year for a contractor based in Dundee and I was offered a job there when I finished my university course. However, I wanted to keep working towards my professional qualification and when I found out about Kier’s graduate scheme, I knew that was the route I wanted to follow.

I was recruited to Kier’s three year graduate degree programme, along with around 150 other graduates and I’ve already completed two and a half years at Kier.

Working with Kier means Ashley can observe restoration projects like the Aberdeen Music Hall

The whole programme has really helped my career. It’s given me all the tools, mentoring support and experience I need to qualify for membership of the RICS Assessment of Professional Competence, and I hope to get my chartership later this year.

The graduate programme has given me a great mix of practical on-the-job experience, formal learning, first line management skills and professional development. I’ve had a great grounding in the business – spending my time on-site and in the office and I work on a variety of projects to give me a broad base to build my career.

I work at Kier Construction’s Aberdeen office and I’m currently leading an improvement programme at Aberdeen Fire Station north control room. I’ve also been able to see first-hand the major infrastructure projects that Kier is involved in, like the CrossRail project in London, the biggest engineering project in Europe, as well as complex restoration projects like the Aberdeen Music Hall and Glasgow School of Art.

“We need to see past traditional construction roles and open our minds to the numerous careers available to young women.”

Ashley Dunsmore

I’ve found that the construction sector offers a wealth of opportunities, with varied and interesting work across the industry and competitive benefits too. As well as typical construction roles, there are a host of architecture, engineering, surveying, project management and planning jobs to name just a few. I’ve always wanted to travel and hope that by working with an international company that has offices in the Middle East, Australia and Hong Kong, I’ll get the chance to do more of that. Kier is also putting me through a leadership programme which will give me another step up on the career ladder.

There is no doubt that the construction industry is facing a skills shortage and the sector certainly suffers from an image problem. We need to see past traditional construction roles and open our minds to the numerous careers available to young people, especially young women.

Kier recently became a member of The WISE Campaign (Women in Science and Engineering) and is working with them to motivate girls and women to study and build careers using science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM). The mission is to get one million more women into the UK STEM workforce and to support them to help attract the next generation of talent.

I’m helping to play my part to encourage young people, especially girls into this fantastic sector. I’m currently working with Kier on a series of careers fairs throughout Scotland to raise the profile of construction and inspire people to consider a role in this hugely rewarding and thriving sector. The next time I ask a young person what they want to be when they grow up, I really hope l hear a few quantity surveyors thrown into the mix!

Catch up with the rest of Scottish Construction Now’s International Women’s Day feature here.

Construction is not just about getting your hands dirty

Pauline McCabe

After spending some time in Greece, Kier Construction Scotland’s Pauline McCabe reveals the personal reasons for returning to Scotland and working in health and safety.

“When I grow up, I want to be a health and safety manager.”

There’s a phrase I bet that no teacher has ever heard escape from the lips of a six year old. It may not have been my childhood dream, yet here I am, a health and safety manager who loves her job.

Like many children with a love of all things cute and cuddly, I wanted to be a vet when I grew up. But by the time I left school, I was confused about what I wanted to do, so rather than make a life-changing decision at a time of uncertainty, I moved to Greece and did some bartending and an office manager role.

When I came back to Scotland a couple of years later, it was time to grow up.  My experience in Greece got me a job as an office manager, sharing my time between an architect’s studio and neighbouring engineering company. This was my first taste of life in the construction industry.

When I began working with the engineering company full time, I started working closely with the planning supervisor, and got involved in quality assurance when the company was installing masts for mobile telephones. I found out about the risks involved and how to overcome them, and this sparked an interest in health and safety. There were personal reasons too; my father was an electrician in the shipyards and picked up pleural plaques, an asbestos related disease and my brother was a miner and has vibration white finger, a condition triggered by continuous use of vibrating hand-held machinery where you can lose all feeling in your fingers.

“The most rewarding aspect is definitely the fact that I’m helping to protect people at work and making a real difference to their lives.”

Pauline McCabe

Having decided on a career in health and safety, I went to work for as many sub-contractor companies as possible, including bricklaying, cladding, roofing and steelwork companies as a consultant, to gain a broad knowledge of the construction sector. While working, I also attended university two nights a week for two years to gain my National Examination Board for Occupational Safety and Health qualification. Shortly afterwards, I became a health and safety adviser before moving to Kier Construction Scotland. I joined Kier as a senior health and safety advisor and was promoted to health and safety manager within six months.

I think the saying ‘life is like a box of chocolates, you never know what you’re going to get’ pretty much sums up my role within health and safety. The fact that every day is different is one of the many things that I really love about my job. The most rewarding aspect is definitely the fact that I’m helping to protect people at work and making a real difference to their lives. I tend to spend one day a week in the office, working on strategy and planning, and the other four days going out to sites, speaking to employees and generally putting the theory into practice! The biggest challenge is getting the workforce to put their safety first at all times, and to place the same care and attention on themselves while working as they would their children and other family members.

As a woman in construction, I’m aware there’s a gender imbalance, but there have been no barriers for me personally. Kier is a very welcoming and diverse company, but I strongly believe that more needs to be done within the industry in general to redress the gender imbalance.

I think the construction industry is still suffering from an image problem. People are under the impression that if you work in construction, you are in a dirty and cold environment. It doesn’t have to be like that – for every role that involves getting your hands grubby, there is another which does not. Construction is a thriving and rewarding industry with so many different roles, and we need to change perceptions for people to realise this and consider a career in this sector.

I’m hoping that I can play a small part in this. I’m often invited to visit nursery and primary schools to give talks to children about the dangers of construction sites. While I’m there, I also try and give them a bit of an insight into this industry, in the hope that I might inspire some young people to change their dream career from a vet, police officer or footballer to an engineer, architect – or even a health and safety manager!

Catch up with the rest of Scottish Construction Now’s International Women’s Day feature here.

Blog: Procuring a great career in construction

Manni Ferguson

Manni Ferguson from Kier Construction examines the growing diverse range of roles for women in business.

With International Women’s Day just two days away, there’s never been a better time to consider the growing diverse range of roles for women in business. People are surprised when I tell them I work for a large multinational construction company, and often they assume that I must work in administration. In fact, I head up procurement for Kier Construction in Scotland and north east England, managing everything from building and maintaining relationships with our supplier base to approving terms and conditions for every contract we place.

It’s a role which has opened up exciting opportunities for me in a sector which I believe is just getting started in terms of its innovative potential. That sector is construction.

I didn’t have typical career aspirations as a child – I loved maths at school and grew up wanting to become a maths teacher, people that know me now would find that hysterical. While this put me very much in the minority of my doctor and actress wannabe friends, I didn’t let that influence me, as geeky as maths sounded to them. I’m now lucky enough to work in an industry which offers excellent career opportunities as well as flexible working options.

I discovered while doing my BSc in Mathematics at the University of Glasgow, that while I love figures and particularly checking them – I’m a big fan of using my red pen! – I quickly realised that I simply didn’t have the patience required for teaching. When I graduated I was lucky enough to secure a summer placement in a local construction company’s buying team, and as they say, the rest is history.

It was a challenge entering a male dominated profession, but ultimately that was more about perception than reality. Personally, I found that if I worked hard, I got opportunities and promotions regardless of my gender. I moved companies a couple of times to widen my experience, and after a few years took a role with Kier where I’ve been ever since, 12 years later and I continue to love my job.

Over the years, things have really progressed in procurement and buying with the introduction of better systems and greater use of business information modelling (BIM) technology. As lead for procurement in Scotland and north east England, I spend my days reviewing contracts, overseeing teams, vetting suppliers and assessing the quality of items or workmanship that we’ve procured. I’ve found that I have a particular talent for understanding and reworking terms and conditions for mutual benefit between Kier and its suppliers, which means that I still get to brandish my red pen on occasion!

It’s a busy and varied role which allows me to be involved in both the nitty gritty of contract terms and conditions as well as the big picture of Kier’s overall supply chain. But what often surprises people is how flexible my employers are and how abundant the opportunities for advancement are across the industry.

During my time at Kier, I’ve been encouraged to push myself as far as I want to go.  Equally, it’s a very family friendly company and I was able to drop down to working three days a week when I came back from maternity leave, which I’ve since chosen to increase back up to working full time.

Unfortunately, the perception still exists that if you are a woman in construction, you’re either in a dirty job working on a site or in the office doing admin. Neither is the case for me! While it used to be unusual to see a woman on a construction site, with more diverse roles appearing due to advancing technology, women are much more the norm.

In my opinion, now is the perfect time to join construction, whether you are a man or a woman. There is no doubt that the industry is facing a shortage of skills, so it’s an open door and once you are in, you’re hooked! If you have transferrable experience and are good at problem solving, retaining information and multi-tasking, there is a good chance that someone in the sector will have a place for you.

Even though I never got to live my earlier dream of becoming a maths teacher, I feel I’ve found my place in an industry which appreciates my individual talents and quirks – including my passion for red pens and contract mark-ups. So, while construction isn’t traditionally the most popular career aspiration, perhaps it should be.

  • Manni Ferguson is procurement lead for Kier Construction in Scotland and north east England

To celebrate International Women’s Day on March 8, Scottish Construction Now is dedicating its entire newsletter to highlight the contribution of leading women from across the sector. Sign up to receive our free newsletter here

Work starts on Ayr’s new Queen Margaret Academy

Young people across South Ayrshire are set to benefit as work starts on the new Queen Margaret Academy in Ayr.

The new state-of-the-art school which will be completed in October 2019 will not only help transform learning but is set to become a hub for the local community.

John Swinney, Deputy First Minister and cabinet secretary for education and skills, joined with young people, staff and South Ayrshire councillors to mark the start of the work.

The £25 million project has been made possible thanks to £8.5m from South Ayrshire Council and £16.5m from the Scottish Government through their ‘Schools for the Future’ programme.

The new school which is currently being built in the grounds of the existing school will have places for up to 800 young people.

Featuring modern classrooms and interactive learning environments, large games hall, a gym, a fitness and movement room, two all-weather pitches, and hard games courts, the school is sure to impress.

Pupils Niamh Scullion (left) and Alex Hull join council leader Douglas Campbell and Deputy First Minister John Swinney

The new Queen Margaret Academy will also be home to Psychological Services and a Supported Learning Centre, which are already at the existing school and will have accommodation for teaching Gaelic.

When the school opens in 2019, the old building will then be demolished and the site fully landscaped.

The school is being built by Kier Construction and is being delivered by South Ayrshire Council in partnership with hub South West. The £25m project is part of a £94m programme of works delivered across South Ayrshire with the aim of enhancing standards through targeted investment.

John Swinney, Deputy First Minister, said: “We know state-of-the-art accommodation can inspire students, staff and parents, and so I am very happy to help get work started on the new academy which will be the 104th school to start construction of a total 117 to be built under the Schools for the Future programme by March 2020.

“I am looking forward to seeing the difference this building will make for pupils in years to come, and pleased the Scottish Government was able to provide almost £17m from our Schools for the Future programme to help make this happen.”

Councillor Peter Henderson, resources and performance portfolio holder at South Ayrshire Council, said: “The start of work at the new Queen Margaret Academy is another example of our commitment to transform learning environments across South Ayrshire.

“One of our priorities is to ensure young people leave school with the skills they need for learning, life and work and delivering a first-class education is a significant step towards achieving this.

“Schools always play a central role in our communities. We have just introduced an initiative in some of our schools called Our People, Our Place. Through these schools we work with partners to deliver local services in the heart of communities.

“I have no doubt that when complete the new Queen Margaret Academy will also be a focal point and a hub for the community.”

Michael McBrearty, chief executive of delivery partner, hub South West, said: “We are delighted to see construction works now commencing on the new Queen Margaret Academy site. Having worked with South Ayrshire Council previously on a number of successful projects including Dailly Primary School, Tarbolton Community Campus and the fantastic new Ayr Academy, we are looking forward to building on our portfolio and our relationship with the council.

“The new Queen Margaret Academy will be a real asset to the local community and a wonderfully modern and innovative environment in which young people can learn and thrive.”

Brian McQuade, managing director of Kier Construction Scotland, said: “We are pleased to start work on delivering this leading, modern academy for South Ayrshire Council which will provide fantastic new teaching and sports facilities for students and the wider community to enjoy.

“Through hub South West, we are working with local suppliers and SMEs to ensure that the project provides important training and employment opportunities and boosts the local economy. During construction, up to 100 workers will be on site during peak periods and we will create 20 work placements, 10 apprenticeships and a graduate traineeship, giving local young people valuable experience of working in this diverse and rewarding industry.”

Tony Flynn, Head Teacher at Queen Margaret Academy, said: “This is an exciting time for young people, parents and staff. The plans look amazing and extensive consultation took place to ensure the new school reflects the needs of everyone including the local community.

“The new school building will be a great benefit to our young people, given its state-of-the-art teaching facilities and extensive new sports facilities, which include two all-weather floodlit synthetic pitches and a fitness suite”.

The Bishop of Galloway, Right Reverend William Nolan blessed the site of the new school and said: “The Diocese of Galloway welcomes the investment by South Ayrshire Council and the Scottish Government in building a new Queen Margaret Academy.

“This investment in a new building is an investment in our teachers and staff, supporting them in their enthusiasm to educate, teach and inspire our young people.

“It’s an investment in our children and in their future. The provision of a modern purpose built facility will inspire our children to seize the opportunity to grow in knowledge, wisdom and virtue.

“It’s an investment in Catholic education, ensuring a new home of learning that will serve the young people of today and of future generations. As we cut the first turf today, we look forward to when this building is complete.”