Scottish housebuilder Dandara has launched a new drive to offer work experience and training opportunities at its East Scotland division, to help local young people pursue a career in construction and housebuilding.
Dandara East Scotland is one of the company’s fastest growing divisions, with a new headquarters and expanding workforce, managing five active or coming-soon developments around the outskirts of Edinburgh and in The Lothians – with more in the pipeline. With a strong demand for more housing in the area, and an ongoing nationwide skills shortage in construction, Dandara is keen to promote careers in the industry, especially to school and college leavers. This summer three young people at different stages in their lives have already had the opportunity to experience first-hand what working for a housebuilder is like, and plans are underway for a permanent training programme.
Stuart Hunter, 21, comes from the Scottish border town of Peebles and is a third-year student at Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh. Stuart was keen to add some practical experience to his BSc (Hons) Construction Project Management studies, where he is on target to achieve a First Class degree, so he applied for a 12-week, paid summer construction project management placement with Dandara.
Ten weeks into the placement, which has been spent shadowing John Simpson, assistant site manager at Dandara’s Shawfair development near Edinburgh, Stuart is now convinced that a career in construction management is the right path for him, once he has finished his fourth year at university.
He says: “I have learned so many new skills onsite at Shawfair, and it’s so much better learning on the job than in the classroom,” he says. “I couldn’t have asked for a more interesting placement – people are one of the biggest factors in running a new homes site, and everyone at Dandara has really gone above and beyond.”
Belinda Neilson, 20, has just graduated from Newcastle University with a Geography and Planning degree, and has also joined Dandara East Scotland for a summer placement before starting a Masters in Spatial Planning and Development. Her summer placement at Dandara East Scotland has helped her learn more about becoming a land and planning professional. “I’ve only been in the post for a few weeks but I’m already learning so much about the job,” she says. “The team is so helpful and it’s clear that everyone at Dandara loves what they do – I am really enjoying learning.”
The youngest person so far to take up a training opportunity is Alistair McManus aged 15, who has enjoyed two days of work experience on site. Alistair knew he wanted to go into construction, but was uncertain which trade he wanted to specialise in. After shadowing the site teams at a couple of Dandara’s new homes developments near Edinburgh and experiencing all the different trades on site he has decided to pursue an apprenticeship in plumbing. “I’m so grateful to Dandara for the opportunity,” he says. “It helped me to discover the right route for me.”
With young people already benefiting from the opportunity to learn about construction with Dandara, the East Scotland housebuilding division is now planning to introduce a more formal trainee scheme to address the ongoing skills shortage in Scotland. The scheme will offer job-hunters the chance to train in roles including site management, quantity surveying, planning, civil engineering, land buying and sales. Through a mixture of learning on the job and formal study, the scheme offers a wide range of professional qualifications that can be obtained over a two or three-year period.
Dandara East Scotland MD Iain Innes says: “It has been great to welcome enthusiastic young people like Stuart, Belinda and Alistair who have so much potential in their future careers. We want to broaden access routes into the industry still further by launching our training programme that will offer the possibility of qualifications right up to degree level while being paid a wage. It will be a fantastic opportunity to work for a fast-growing business with lots of opportunity for career progression.”