Just a Minute: Graeme Binnie

Just a Minute: Graeme Binnie

Graeme Binnie with (from left) Ivan (3), Callie (6), Allana (4), Frankie (5)

Graeme Binnie, joiner and founder of the West Lothian Woodworking Initiative, is the latest subject of SCN’s Just a Minute feature.

How did you get started in the industry?

I’ve always had a passion for teaching, but when I left school, I followed a different path and obtained an apprenticeship as a joiner.

Throughout my career, I’ve recognised how important it is for everyone to have the same opportunities to learn and develop vocational skills. Introducing these skills at an early age can empower children to explore their interests and choose their future paths with confidence. This led me to become a construction lecturer at West Lothian College, where I combined my practical experience with my passion for teaching the next generation of craftsmen and craftswomen.

My work has since culminated in the creation of the West Lothian Woodworking Initiative, providing young people with hands-on experience and practical skills. It also aids in the development of future talent, who may well join the construction industry. It’s fulfilling to see students discover their potential and develop a passion for woodworking, just as I did.

Can you tell me more about the woodworking initiative and what it aims to do?

Funded by HCI Skills Gateway, the West Lothian Woodworking Initiative aims to support children’s development by teaching them new skills that integrate across the curriculum. Students use relevant vocabulary, numeracy, mathematics, and science skills as they plan, design, and create models out of recycled timber. This helps them build a solid foundation for future careers in construction.

One of our key goals is to address the gender imbalance in the construction industry by encouraging girls to get involved in construction skills from an early age. It’s crucial for young people to be exposed to a variety of skills outside the traditional classroom setting, and West Lothian College has played a vital role in making this initiative possible.
Since August 2022, we’ve provided woodworking lessons and training to early years practitioners, primary school practitioners, and teachers across West Lothian. This training has equipped them with the confidence and competencies to safely deliver hands-on, practical sessions to their pupils.

Education Scotland has also recognised the value of our initiative, participating in some of our sessions and recommending the expansion of the programme beyond West Lothian, highlighting its success and potential for broader impact.

How do you get children engaged with the industry at such a young age?

Every child has a unique capacity for learning, and I’ve seen this first hand with my own children. I make sure that our woodworking sessions are light, fun, and interesting, to create an enjoyable atmosphere and capture their attention and enthusiasm. I also ensure they understand safety is a priority by teaching them how to be sensible with tools and highlighting the risks involved.

Many of the children already have a connection to the construction industry through family members who are joiners, builders, and tradespeople. This often leads to moments of pride during our sessions, with kids excitedly sharing stories about their parents’ or relatives’ work.

Biggest professional achievement:

Introducing the West Lothian College Woodworking Initiative is by far my biggest professional achievement. Spending time in schools at the beginning of children’s educational journeys, and seeing them progress, is incredibly rewarding. The initiative provides them with hands on activities and learning alongside traditional subjects like maths and English. This holistic approach helps them see the construction industry—and all vocational skills—as a positive and viable career path.

Who has inspired you most in your career?

My parents. They always emphasised the importance of having a trade and told me “everyone needs a joiner”. This guided me towards obtaining an apprenticeship before I even left school.

In college, my lecturer also had a significant impact on me, helping me to thrive and develop both my skills and my confidence. Their support and encouragement reinforced the value of vocational training and inspired me to pursue a career where I could share that same guidance and inspiration with others.

What do you like most about your job?

Seeing young people’s confidence grow when they succeed in woodworking. Their belief in themselves is a powerful thing, and being able to contribute to that is what I love most about my job.

And the least?

Having limited time. I always wish I could spend more time with participants than the allocated time allows to create a greater impact. I often find myself wanting to provide more guidance and support as they develop their skills.

What is the most important part of the industry?

Nurturing and developing motivated individuals who have been immersed in the industry from a young age. This not only provides the industry with passionate and skilled professionals but also ensures that construction remains at the forefront of cutting-edge development. Investing in talent is crucial to driving innovation and success within the construction sector.

If you could change one thing in construction, what would it be?

I would introduce initiatives like ours across the entire country. Supporting young people and providing them with early exposure to construction skills can inspire them to choose the construction industry as their number one career choice. By implementing similar programs nationwide, we can inspire a new generation of skilled professionals.

What are the biggest challenges your organisation has faced since the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic?

One of the biggest challenges was the inability to deliver face-to-face sessions. In-person workshops are beneficial for the kids, as they allow for better interaction and socialisation. The hands-on experience is crucial not only for developing skills but also for building confidence and teamwork. The pandemic forced us to find alternative ways to engage students, but nothing quite matches the value of face-to-face learning where kids can directly interact with their peers and instructors.

How do you receive your industry news?

By email subscription.

How would you change Scottish Construction Now?

Overall, it is a very worthwhile website with up-to-date articles of interest.

Which social media sites do you find the most useful?

I use LinkedIn and X mostly to keep up with key industry pages, like Scottish Construction Now and the Federation of Master Builders.

Hobbies and interests:

Outside of work, my time is spent with my family and gardening. I also enjoy playing the odd game of golf (badly!).

Favourite holiday destination:


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