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Last updateThu, 04 Apr 2024 11am

Construction companies urged to link up with universities and colleges

A construction expert at Robert Gordon University (RGU) in Aberdeen has cited a missed opportunity in the sector, with companies failing to plan for the future during the economic downturn, and is urging innovative action to address the issue.

Rob Leslie, a course leader at the Scott Sutherland School of Architecture and Built Environment, Robert Gordon University (RGU) and a former Chair of the Chartered Institute of Building (CIOB) in Scotland, believes that businesses are now panicking as the industry’s skills shortage starts to bite with a large percentage of the workforce rapidly approaching retirement age and fewer graduates coming through from universities and colleges.

Mr Leslie, who clocked up 40 years of industry experience before becoming a full-time lecturer at RGU in 2010, points to the latest set of figures to be released by the Construction Industry Training Board (CITB) which predicts that 182,000 construction jobs are set to be created in the next five years across the UK, with almost 30,000 of those in Scotland.

A member of the CIOB Education Quality Standards and Practice Board, Mr Leslie is urging SMEs (Small and Medium Enterprises) to link up with colleges and universities in order to directly access the next generation of construction project managers and surveyors.

“The industry needs to start making itself more attractive as it comes out of recession and commit to training up the new generation of workers,” he said. “The average number of construction management graduates in Scotland is just over 50 a year, with honours degrees only provided by RGU, Heriot-Watt and Glasgow Caledonian universities.

“Our postgraduate course in construction project management has had a huge amount of interest this year, as we see people who are already within the industry look to further their careers and step up into the skills gap. 

“However, we are not seeing as many young students coming to our BSc (Hons) Construction Management course. Young people are not encouraged to join this exciting and diverse industry - there is much more to it than bricklayers and joiners.

“Construction is vital to the overall economic health of the nation - designing, building and maintaining the infrastructure that we all depend upon and take for granted. The industry needs to attract new blood in, collaborating and fostering links with the education sector is one of the key ways to do it.

“Companies do not want to employ someone who has no hands on experience, and equally we want graduates to come out of RGU at the end of four years with the best possible set of skills to enable them to do their job well.

“I want to invite companies to look at how they can engage with universities and colleges, from a fairly low level of running workshops and presentations to committing to taking on a student one day a week throughout their degree to give them a vital grounding in the practicalities of the job. 

“Businesses can then be confident of getting a return on their investment - an employee who is not only well versed in the newest construction management methods and policies, but is also well equipped to step onto a building site and know how things work.”

Robert Gordon University (RGU) offers a BSc (Hons) in Construction Management and an MSc in Construction Project Management. To find out more visit www.rgu.ac.uk