Balfour Beatty plans to recruit more apprentices in Scotland
The head of Balfour Beatty's construction business in Scotland said it would recruit up to 100 apprentices in Scotland in the next three years, despite tough times for the industry, if the public sector provides enough work.
Tim Clarke said the construction giant was ready to roughly quadruple the number of apprentices it usually recruited in Scotland under a scheme it believes could bring big benefits to the company and the communities it works in.
Balfour Beatty has developed a programme that Mr Clarke believes will provide apprentices with a much better route into long-term employment than can be the case under employment schemes in the industry.
He said construction apprentices often found their jobs came to an end after work on a site had finished. By using sub-contractors to provide some employment opportunities, Balfour Beatty expects to offer recruits three full years of training that will give them skills they could use to build a career in the industry.
Balfour Beatty has started recruiting 15 apprentices for the first intake, double the average number it recruits annually.
The company has enough work in the pipeline to justify recruiting 15 more people in each of the next two years.
However, Mr Clarke added: "If we win more work it could be up to 100 [over three years]."
Mr Clarke hopes to win more work from public sector customers.
He claimed apprenticeships offered much greater benefit to communities than the cheaper short-term work placements that seemed to be popular with ministers and councils. Mr Clarke said these tend to focus on the number of "new starts" that projects will use, although the people concerned can soon be unemployed again.
Mr Clarke said construction market conditions are very challenging. "There's very few tenders out there."
However, the apprentices will help Balfour Beatty secure the skilled workers it will need to cope with the expected increase in future demand.
The company will recoup some of its training costs under the Modern Apprenticeship scheme.
Following claims that four out of 10 places on the Modern Apprenticeship scheme went to people who had been in their job for more than six months, Mr Clarke said it made sense to award positions to employees who had shown the qualities expected.
He said the scheme was working well but might need to be adapted to recognise that people could gain valuable skills on programmes that took less than three years to complete.
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