City Region Deal boosts inclusive construction and engineering skills supply

Over 2,000 people in south-east Scotland are set to benefit from the first wave of skills and career support from the new Housing, Construction and Infrastructure (HCI) Skills Gateway.

Supported by the Edinburgh and South East Scotland City Region Deal and funded by Scottish government, the HCI Skills Gateway – worth £6million over the next seven years – will provide multi-level support to schools, new entrants to the sector and upskill the existing workforce.

The HCI Skills Gateway includes an exciting and diverse range of short work-ready courses in renewable energy for homes, installing electric vehicle charging points, highways and roads infrastructure, environmental technologies and engagement with school pupils.

According to the UK government Foresight report on future cities, south-east Scotland is the fastest growing region in Scotland and fifth fastest in the UK. With an anticipated 145,000 new homes to be built over the next two decades, it marks a 40% increase in new housing supply compared with the 20 years prior to the recession.

The HCI Skills Gateway is being delivered by the region’s universities and colleges. Professor Sean Smith of Edinburgh Napier University, who leads the HCI Skills Gateway, said:

“This is the start of a step-change in support across the region to enable and support our future workforce and net-zero ambitions. This inclusive growth support will provide an attractive route into future job opportunities and career pathways and we are particularly keen to support unemployed entering this sector, attracting more women into construction and engineering and supporting existing employees with new skills”.

Napier’s Institute for Sustainable Construction has forecast a construction skills supply shortage of over 3,500 in south-east Scotland in the coming years. The HCI Skills Gateway aims to help reduce this gap and support inclusive growth for people across the region.

The HCI advanced skills pathway also includes the award-winning Built Environment Exchange (BeX), which is undertaken in partnership with industry and Saltire scholarships. This provides an accelerated knowledge pathway and students working with industry innovation projects. 

According to Smith, a key opportunity will be to “enable the region’s low carbon ambitions, embedding new technologies and clean-tech approaches for future homes and buildings”. Further waves of HCI support will be announced later in 2020 for offsite construction and advanced skills.

CEO of Fife Council, Steve Grimmond, who chairs the City Region Deal's Integrated Regional Employability and Skills Board said:

“The HCI project demonstrates the regional reach for both urban and rural areas of this City Region Deal. This is one of seven flagship projects to support inclusive communities and regional growth and it is positive, given our sustainable development ambitions, that so many of these work-ready courses are aligned to our future low carbon infrastructure”.

Scottish Government Cabinet Secretary for Infrastructure Michael Matheson said:

“The Scottish Government’s £300m investment to the Edinburgh and South East Scotland City Region Deal includes a £25m commitment to improving skills within the region. I’m delighted to see that the HCI skills gateway is set to benefit thousands of people in the years to come, helping to create the expertise that we need in the Housing, Construction and Infrastructure sectors in order to achieve a sustainable, carbon-free future for Scotland.  

“This is further demonstration of the wide-sweeping benefits of City Deals and Growth Deals, which the Scottish Government has now committed more than £1.8 billion to, including our additional investment.”

In addition to the new skills and jobs pathways, the region also needs an increased supply in site trades including bricklayers, joiners, electricians and plumbers. Much of the HCI wave 1 support will be provided through further education partners including Edinburgh, West Lothian, Fife and Scottish Borders colleges working in collaboration with industry and public sector.

David Lowe, Assistant Principal, Borders College commented:

“Borders College has a longstanding reputation for excellence in delivering construction across the south-east of Scotland. We welcome the collaboration with other Colleges and Universities through the City Region Deal HCI Skills Gateway and the investment not only to enable the demand for an appropriately skilled inclusive workforce but to also to realise the ambition for Scotland to be a leader in sustainable construction”.

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