Partnership launches new course to expand civil engineering workforce

Published: 19 July 2023

Image: Carrie Higgins, UHI Inverness

A collaboration between four Scottish colleges and industry partners will deliver a new course to respond to the need to expand the civil engineering workforce to build the infrastructure projects set by the Scottish Government.

An innovative partnership approach has developed the first CECA Scotland Academy Construction Operations NPA course to address the major skills shortage in civil engineering. The Energy Skills Partnership (ESP) has worked with Civil Engineering Contractors Association Scotland (CECA), UHI Inverness, UHI West Highland, UHI Argyll and Fife College to introduce the programme from August.

Civil engineering is critical to supporting local communities by building the vital infrastructure and transport links they rely on, but its workforce is ageing. This Construction Operations course provides an important new route into the industry and will support the attraction and retention of new talent. It is a great example of partnership delivery of a new qualification to benefit the wider construction sector.

Applications are now open for the 18-week course at all four colleges. It is aimed at young people interested in studying the practical skills they will need to prepare them for employment as a civil engineering operative.

The course will be project based and the majority of the skills will be taught outside. Every student will be guaranteed an interview for a job on completion of the programme and employers have signed up to guaranteed employment of 75% of the successful graduates.

Carrie Higgins, tertiary education leader at UHI Inverness, said: “The value of colleges coming together to deliver training that is essential to address recruitment challenges has been proved with our previous partnerships to support national workforce needs, and we are pleased to be working together with industry to offer training that will provide the new generation of civil engineering operatives.”

Claire Thomson, course leader of Built Environment and Rural Skills at UHI West Highland, said: “One of the primary aims of this course is to produce candidates who are work ready in the industry as we see it today. The partnership between the colleges and industry allows us to realise this aim. It highlights a different complementary entry point into the industry for young people who wish to develop as skilled workers, acknowledging the value and contribution that civil engineering operatives make with a formal qualification.”

Dennis Savage, director of Faculty, Engineering Science Technology and the Built Environment at Fife College, said: “This is a fantastic opportunity to be working with other colleges to develop a programme that will enhance the work-based learning aspect of civil engineering skills. This will allow all candidates to practice in a real-life working environment to develop their hand skills, in order to succeed in the industry. We look forward to our first cohort starting at the end of August.”

Grahame Barn, chief executive of CECA Scotland, added: “The CECA Scotland Academy is an industry-driven programme designed to create a pathway from full-time education directly into the Scottish civil engineering sector. Each student will complete an entry level qualification. The course is open to all young people – irrespective of academic level, sex or background.”

“Everyone who successfully completes the full-time training course will be guaranteed an interview with a civil engineering contractor, with a realistic ambition of employment for everyone who completes it. Further on-the-job training will take place in full-time employment.”

Jim Brown, director at ESP, said: “By establishing an academy model and fostering strong partnerships with ESP and colleges, CECA Scotland is driving the construction sector forward, ensuring a skilled and capable workforce to meet the demands of infrastructure projects. Collaboration between industry and education is the key to unlocking the full potential of our future engineers and builders, propelling Scotland towards a prosperous and sustainable future.”

Bethany Welsh, a social impact advisor with Balfour Beatty, said: “We are excited to be supporting the new CECA Scotland Academy Level 5 NPA Construction Operations course. This will open up doors to progression onto other courses in construction, civil engineering and the built environment including apprenticeship opportunities and will give an in-depth introduction to the industry to allow students to progress in a career they feel passionate about.”

“Balfour Beatty recognises the widespread benefits the construction industry generates, from local to national economic growth to greener infrastructure, and building more diverse and inclusive workplaces through not only our business but our supply chain too. We want to encourage anyone with an interest in the built environment to apply.”