Building a skilled future


In Scotland, 13.8% of 16-24 year-olds are currently out of work, yet demand for young, skilled workers in the construction industry is at an all time high. Stuart McKill, Sustainable Habitat Leader for Saint-Gobain in Scotland, discusses the vital role that large construction firms have in upskilling young people and supporting the next generation of industry professionals. 

IN Scotland, confidence in the construction industry is at an eight-year high, and while this is great news for potential growth, it is being undermined by the growing skills shortage in the sector.

This goes hand in hand with the high level of youth unemployment in the area, and it is clear that construction firms have a responsibility both economically and socially, to help young people back into work and strengthen the industry’s workforce.

The skills shortage is most likely to affect small and medium-sized businesses, with one in three reporting that the lack of skilled professionals was a potential barrier to the growth of their business. This is a concern for the industry and society as a whole, as small businesses support economic growth and development in local areas, and have the ability to provide work for the growing number of young people currently out of work. Not only this, but small firms are often drivers of innovation and change.

In order for growth to remain steady in the coming years, construction firms should share the responsibility to provide training and skills to the next generation of industry professionals.

This is why Saint-Gobain has provided both materials and funding to the new Prince’s Trust support centre in Glasgow. The Saint-Gobain Initiatives Foundation, founded in 2008, awarded a grant of £99,400 as well as providing professional advice on the building and performance of the centre.

Following the hub’s launch, Saint-Gobain will continue to provide support to those the Trust helps, as part of its support services.

The Prince’s Trust provides one-to-one advice and mentoring for young people looking to find employment, get back into education and training, and set up their own businesses. People drive business performance, and it is important that young people are treated as individuals, as they are at the Prince’s Trust, and feel they can make an important contribution to the industry in which they work.

The construction industry should also be inclusive, creating a diverse workforce with a range of skill sets, in order to drive creativity and innovation. There are a vast amount of roles in the industry that will suit a whole range of young people currently struggling to find work. Traditional training methods are still important, but we must encourage pioneering and sustainable building methods to become part of regular design and construction processes if we are to achieve a more sustainable building stock.

For many young people, the construction industry is not seen as an exciting career choice, but there is so much opportunity for personal development and progression. This is more apparent than ever as new technologies, products and services are introduced to the industry, building on more ‘traditional’ skill sets and expertise to widen our knowledge and roles.

Saint-Gobain itself has 22 brands operating in Scotland, supplying products covering all areas of the built environment, and we know that as we innovate, there is more opportunity for young people to get involved and update their own skills.

In addition, many school leavers are not encouraged to consider apprenticeships in light of other more popular vocational options, and unfortunately, this is putting further pressure on the skills gap in the UK, as well as leaving young people with fewer employment options.

Training isn’t limited to apprenticeships however, and as most of us know, training continues throughout our lives as we take on new challenges and develop existing skills. In order to attract new talent, it is vital that the construction industry communicates this to the next generation.

Despite the stereotypes of the construction industry, young people should be made aware that the construction industry is a dynamic, creative and technologically advanced industry that shapes the world in which we live. There are many career paths available to young people in the sector, and our involvement with The Prince’s Trust will raise awareness of this.