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The Construction Sector Recovery Plan, launched in October, has focussed on the joint action required between the industry and the public sector to respond to the pandemic.

Alongside steps to support employers and employees through the immediate impacts from COVID-19, the plan includes reskilling and upskilling initiatives to support industry recovery and growth. 

Emma Dickson, Industry Leadership Skills Group Chair, explains what’s behind the immediate priorities. She said:

“Focus has been on ensuring minimum disruption to current apprenticeships, encouraging the adoption of redundant apprentices, directing individuals to new opportunities or to short training courses to upskill. 

“The plan also prioritised digital skills awareness and training readily available to employers and employees to ensure working and studying from home was viable.”

Extensive employer support

The enhanced Adopt an Apprentice scheme, Employer Grant and Apprenticeship Transition Plan – coupled with greater collaboration amongst agencies, learning providers and industry – have supported employers and helped secure pathways for new talent into the sector. 


The expanded Flexible Workforce Development Fund offers access wider selection of training, considering digital and low carbon skills needs, and increased need for resilience.

Efforts to diversify routes into the industry feature heavily too.  Emma added:

“We want to encourage more young people from schools, further- and higher education into construction and ensure there is the right steps in place to help them develop.”

Continuing to invest in skills

Many employers recognise that now is not the time to take the foot off the gas in relation to talent attraction and development. 

Hector MacAulay MBE, Managing Director at Balfour Beatty, commented:  

“We are proud to be a member of the 5% club and within our business in Scotland, over 7% of our employee population are emerging talent.

“We have a strong commitment to recruit and support graduates, trainees and apprentices, especially through these challenging times, and see this as key to developing talent within our business for the future.”

Supporting professional routes into the sector, those who’ve faced redundancy and developing the existing management levels are amongst the Recovery Plan’s priorities. 

Sarah Speirs, made redundant by a very small business who suffered under COVID-19, has been taken on by the firm Arcadis.

Sarah is undertaking a Civil Engineering Graduate Apprenticeship and would recommend it to others.  She said:

“This pathway helps me to fill in knowledge gaps between theoretical university learning and ‘real-life’ on-the-job learning.

"I have been able to visit various construction sites, gain a working knowledge of a range of engineering software, access company funded training and have been exposed to a range of typical engineering projects.

“I would definitely recommend a Graduate Apprenticeship to anyone who was considering going to university, as it provides invaluable networking opportunities, access to additional support and advice from colleagues and the chance to earn while you learn.”

Graduate Apprenticeships (GAs) make it possible for you to study towards a degree whilst also gaining practical experience in the industry. 

High calibre

Amanda McKay, Quality Assurance Director at Balfour Beatty, explains the value of GAs to the business and wider industry. She said:  

“In the last five years I’ve used a number of routes to bring emerging talent into the Balfour Beatty Major Projects Quality team. Whilst other approaches have had success, we have achieved a far better calibre of Quality Engineer through the Graduate Apprentice route.

“The combination of on the job learning as well as academic study give the individuals the right balance between practical and theoretical knowledge but has also produced a more rounded individual.”

Emma Dickson recognises the rewards of GAs but is keen to make more businesses make use of them. 

“It’s an opportunity for employers to mould the individual, to embed them in your practices and give them the space to grow with the company.”

Find out more

Further information about Graduate Apprenticeships and the support available to employers is available at Apprenticeships.Scot

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