Building the future workforce

Kirsty Connell-Skinner

By Kirsty Connell-Skinner, programme manager | HCI Skills Gateway

Do you remember being young and experiencing something that shaped your career choices? Maybe you saw a exhibition on Ancient Egypt on a school trip to a museum, and decided you wanted to be an archaeologist. Or perhaps as a Guide or Scout you tried abseiling and decided that life as a mountaineer was for you.

Whatever your career path, there’s no doubt those experiences shaped your imagination, and showed you what was possible.

But all too often, these important childhood experiences are the preserve of young people fortunate enough to have parents and networks who can guide, support and open doors. That’s why Housing, Construction and Infrastructure Skills Gateway (HCI) is supporting a new campaign by the Edinburgh Science Festival to showcase the benefits of a new-style career in building and construction.

Budding Builders is facilitating schools from deprived areas across the city and beyond to enjoy and learn in the City Art Centre in Edinburgh between 9-24 April.

Evidence shows that construction is still viewed by many as a low skilled, dirty job. Parents ‘see construction as male industry’ according to a 2021 study by Fawcett Society.

But construction is changing – the digital revolution of the built environment is happening slowly but surely. The impact of the Covid-19 pandemic has propelled the use of technology and innovative processes. We’re seeing drones and satellites being used for surveys, and 3D printing is a reality for many building and construction firms.

We’re also witnessing a global drive to address the complex challenges posed by climatic instability and the need to reduce carbon emissions. The construction industry is no exception and has worked hard to deliver positive change. There’s been a move towards modular construction where properties are built in sections within factory environments and then transported to the construction site for speedy assembly. This significantly reduces the need for number of carbon-emitting road transport journeys needed to site.

The opportunities to work in construction are endless, and HCI is funded by the Edinburgh & SE Scotland City Region Deal to increase and accelerate construction careers across the region, aiming to close the construction skills gap.  But to achieve this, we need more and different types of people to choose careers in the built environment.

There are lots of ways to do this: we have extra short courses delivered by further education colleges to upskill apprentices in new skills such as retrofit and EV charging installation; scholarships to encourage the historically excluded into senior construction roles; and we’re igniting new learning pathways, like Timber TED, now being deployed in the Timber Development UK 2022 national design competition with students from 33 universities.

These are all great – but the future is the children. So parents, educators, influencers; please be open to the vast number of opportunities available in the construction sector, and let’s inspire the next generation of dreamers to build amazing careers in the built environment.