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Engaging business and universities in the school curriculum programme can enhance the learning experience for young people and supply a skilled workforce for Scotland’s growing construction industry.

That is according to a new report by a team of academics from Heriot-Watt University’s School of Energy, Geoscience, Infrastructure and Society.

This report highlights the value of engaging industry and academia in school-level curriculum.

Associate Professor Alex MacLaren

The work, carried out in collaboration with contractors Laing O’Rourke and education partners, demonstrates the value of a cross-sector approach to support what is taught in school.

Entitled ‘Mutual Benefit’, the 44-page document is based on a project funded by the CITB and BIM4Education.

Associate Professor Alex MacLaren of Heriot Watt University, lead author of the report, said: “This report highlights the value of engaging industry and academia in school-level curriculum. There is evidential, replicable, measurable value to all parties, indicating a sustainable relationship that will support ongoing collaboration at no additional cost.”

Over the 2017-18 academic year, University academics and students worked in partnership with the construction firm, Laing O’Rourke, to support teachers and pupils at Drummond Community High School in Edinburgh with an accredited learning programme. Known as the Design Engineer Construct (DEC), the programme has been specifically developed to inspire the next generation of Built Environment professionals.

The UK’s Construction Industry is threatened by an ever-increasing ‘skills gap’ between the projected employment and industry needs. This forecasted shortfall includes an ongoing difficulty in attracting women into construction careers. The DEC curriculum encourages young people to engage in construction as well as builds on a wide variety of skills, and enables the meaningful engagement of industry and academia in school-age education.

Jo Vezey, Head of talent, inclusion and social sustainability at Laing O’Rourke, said: “Our economy needs technical skills to function and DEC helps to meet this demand which is why we have been proud partners and supporters of DEC and Class of Your Own since 2011.

“As an engineer myself, I know that our industry offers varied and exciting careers to people of all backgrounds and we must work with education providers to inform and inspire students, teachers and parents. It is clear to me that DEC’s combination of traditional academic and projects based learning; working directly with industry partners such as Laing O'Rourke; is mutually beneficial, equipping young people with the knowledge and skills they need to pursue a career in construction and engineering while creating a pipeline of future talent for our industry and economy.”

Heriot Watt continues to lead the way in Construction Education, offering new Graduate Apprenticeship routes, international cross-campus exchanges on its established degree programmes.