Blog: Why should young people join the Scottish construction industry?

Phil Ford
Phil Ford

By Phil Ford, CITB’s strategic partnerships director for Scotland.

A big part of my job is to work with a range of key partners to promote the fantastic range of opportunities available within the Scottish construction industry.

When people ask me why they should choose construction over other sectors, I say: look all around you and speak to people who have found really satisfying careers in the industry.

Throughout Scotland, we are blessed with iconic and beautiful buildings; some centuries old, others more modern.

Take, for example, the new Forth Replacement Crossing – surely one of the most inspirational designs in Scottish construction and engineering in a generation.

And you don’t just take it from me. Eve McEwan, who grew up in South Queensferry, was asked to speak at the launch of a new Foundation Modern Apprenticeship in civil engineering - an initiative that enables young people who are still at school to experience what a career in this field would involve.

She told the audience she had been so inspired by the bridges across the Forth when she was growing up that she was determined to become a civil engineer. I’m happy to say she did, and now works for Graham Construction in Edinburgh.

Another person I would like to mention is Sophie Turner, who is working in the heritage building sector. As an apprentice stonemason at Orkney’s St Magnus Cathedral, she is gaining many useful skills on her apprenticeship and is very lucky to be going to work each day at such an inspirational building!

We’re fortunate in Scotland that employers see the benefits of taking on an apprentice and have continued taking them on even during the recession. Our figures show CITB apprentices in Scotland are up 21% – a four-year high.

But with a proposal to increase the number of Modern Apprenticeships in Scotland to 30,000 by 2020, we need to get even more people on board.

So what is going on to encourage that to happen? Quite a lot, in fact.

CITB has been working with schools, colleges, councils and employers to develop exciting ways of giving more people the chance to become an apprentice, which has led to the launch of two new initiatives.

The Shared Highland Apprenticeship Scheme and a Foundation Modern Apprenticeship in civil engineering were announced during this year’s Scottish Apprenticeship Week, which include benefits for both large and small businesses, as well as apprentices themselves.

The Shared Apprenticeship Scheme model is a really innovative approach to on-the-job training and enables employers to share apprentices.

Not only has the scheme received the backing of some of Scotland’s biggest construction employers – such as Galliford Try and Robertson – it is also supported by a local authority and public-sector bodies.

The sheer variety of opportunities available will benefit apprentices, as it allows them to get to grips with a wider range of skills across a project than they would with just one employer.

If a big firm is working on a large project with several subcontractors, the supply chain will be able to get together to decide how apprentices could be moved around over the different stages of the jobs.

It will lead to a greater number of workers experienced in a broad range of areas, which will be crucial in helping to tackle the skills gap affecting the whole of our industry.

The second scheme is the Foundation Modern Apprenticeship. From August, 50 students from West Lothian and the Highlands will enrol on the scheme and complete the first year of a Modern Apprenticeship in civil engineering alongside their fifth year of school. The scheme will seek to address under-representation, stipulating that half of all participants are female.

Initiatives like the Foundation Apprenticeship and the Shared Highland Apprenticeship Scheme will help, but there’s a still a huge amount of work ahead for everyone involved in Scottish construction.

That’s why all of us within the industry need to point to the fantastic range of career opportunities that exist to keep Scotland building!

  • Take a look back at Scottish Apprenticeship Week 2015
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