Laying the foundations for our future workforce - Hector MacAulay

Scottish Apprenticeship Week 2020 last week presented us with an ideal opportunity not only to celebrate the achievements of our apprentices but also to reflect on the national skills shortage the construction industry is facing.

Apprentices have an unprecedented impact on Scottish businesses and the economy, says MacAulay. Picture: Contributed
Apprentices have an unprecedented impact on Scottish businesses and the economy, says MacAulay. Picture: Contributed

In order to secure the success of our business and deliver the future infrastructure needs of the nation, it is vitally important to engage and develop young people we can depend upon to continue and progress the infrastructure sector.

This generation will deliver Scotland’s future infrastructure projects, through a wide range of roles varying from project management to engineering, digital interaction and skilled trades.

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That is why, as a member of “The 5% Club”, we are dedicated to inspiring, educating and retaining young people to take up earn-as-you-learn positions while making them aware of what a rewarding career in construction looks like. Innovative technologies are changing the way in which we work – many jobs will disappear, and new skills will be required to earn a living, providing a great opportunity for apprentices to thrive in the industry.

Apprentices have an unprecedented impact on businesses in Scotland and the wider economy. By creating opportunities, especially for those local to our projects, we can support the aims of local economic growth.

Not only do our apprentices benefit from their vocational apprenticeship at Balfour Beatty, but also through their involvement in broader developmental training, including health and safety, leadership and communication skills.

Practical, first-hand experience

Engaging with young people at significant points in their education is essential to provide them with the industry skills and knowledge they do not always obtain from traditional classroom-based lessons.

That is why, at the beginning of 2019, we partnered with the University of Edinburgh to co-fund a Design, Engineer and Construct learning programme for high school pupils, that aims to inspire the next generation of specialists working in the industry. Through programmes such as this, pupils acquire invaluable practical, first-hand experience and skills required to succeed with a career in construction.

We must continue to work closely with schools, universities, business and enterprises to support their objectives and to assist in the development of our future workforce whilst strengthening the local community. The key is in presenting foundation, modern and graduate apprenticeships as viable routes into a successful career and reinforcing the significance of the infrastructure industry.

As a member of the Scottish Apprenticeship Advisory Board, our aim is to strengthen employer input and endorsement of the strategic direction of apprenticeships and work-based learning pathways, which is important to ensure that the apprenticeship system meets the needs of industry in Scotland. We must ensure the alignment of apprenticeships with Scotland’s economic growth and job opportunities.

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I was also recently appointed as the first HRH Industrial Cadets Ambassador in Scotland by the Engineering Development Trust. I feel a personal responsibility to engage industry with schools so that children and young people make not just the right choices of subject, but are then supported in bringing connectivity to the workplace, through work experience and career opportunities.

It is increasingly acknowledged that the construction industry has a serious skills shortage. However, it is our industry that has the framework to provide the skills, networks, employment and training opportunities required for young people’s personal and career growth.

We must continue to upskill, attract and retain apprentices to diversify and modernise our workforce to ensure the successful delivery of Scotland’s key infrastructure projects for generations to come.

- Hector MacAulay, regional managing director of Scotland & Ireland at Balfour Beatty