Innovation Exchange

Construction Employability Programme


Key activities

Benefits and impacts


The Construction Employability Programme is a great example of effective public/private sector partnership working to provide routes into employment for people who might otherwise miss out. It shows the importance of clearly understanding employer requirements and the need for considerable flexibility when supporting young people who have complex barriers to employment.


The ethos of the programme is very much one of ‘second chances’, with the employers involved believing strongly that previous offending behaviour should not mean that young people could not get access to good jobs.


This programme has been truly life changing for the young people involved.

Theme: Employability

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The Construction Employability Programme was developed as part of Dundee City Council’s response to Scotland’s youth employability strategy, “Developing the Young Workforce”, which has the ambitious aim of a 40% reduction on the 2014 levels of youth unemployment by 2021.


As part of the council’s overall approach to improving employment opportunities for all young people, we recognised that a substantial number of young people have complex additional support needs and require a much more flexible and supported provision. This provision was developed by staff involved in Community Benefits, Skills for Learning and Work and Learning and Workforce Development to ensure that we used all available supports to develop an appropriate and responsive provision.  The core team also involved colleagues from key employability partners such as Jobcentre Plus and Dundee Employability Partners. The final and most important partners in the programme were the private sector construction employers, Advance Construction and Kilmac Construction, with support from Robertsons Construction, Balfour Beatty and JB Safesite.


The programme developed from a pilot with Kilmac in 2015. When Advance, a relatively new company to Dundee, contacted the council with potential vacancies, Kilmac were also invited to participate. The employers created a wish list of what they would like from employees and council colleagues developed a bespoke training package to deliver this. Staff also used their employability expertise to develop appropriate training and a targeted recruitment process, involving a range of partners, in which the employer was fully involved.


Our Community Benefits Team linked with employers and employability providers; the Skills for Learning and Work Team provided 1:1 support to the young people; Learning and Workforce Development provided accredited training; the Employability Pipeline provided employability skills training; and Advance and Kilmac Construction provided a five week work placement. Robertsons Construction delivered certificated training on site and provided a CV and interview skills session which gave the young people a further insight into the construction industry. Balfour Beatty arranged for a site visit to the Railway Station site and contributed financially to the certificated training. Contractors were able to count their contribution to this programme against their Community Benefit targets, giving them an additional incentive to support the programme.

All six of the young people who attended and completed the programme were offered employment with Advance Construction as  groundsworkers and are still employed there almost a year later. They are also receiving wages that are above the Living Wage.


All six of the young men were repeat offenders and since they have secured this employment none have been charged with an offence. The Construction Skills programme has given these young men a career, improved their financial circumstances and shown their family and friends that you can change your life.


Successfully completing this specialised pre-recruitment training has meant that the young people have entered employment as some of the most qualified groundsworkers locally. This has resulted in them being deployed in particular roles on sites, such as banksmen, as they are part of a minority of the workforce who have this training. The programme, therefore, has not only allowed the candidates to access employment, but allowed them to enter the workforce as valued and skilled members of staff.  This has further contributed to their well-earned sense of pride in their own achievements. The young men have also been working alongside a large number of Eastern European groundsworkers, developing solid friendships with these co-workers and learning about different cultures and values.


This project has been showcased to the Minister for Employability and Training, Jamie Hepburn, at a national event with Scottish Government colleagues as a best practice model that we should be using to develop relationships with private sector employers.


One of the most exciting elements of this programme is that it has become a preferred recruitment model for both Advance and Kilmac. Kilmac has gone on to deliver a similar programme in Perth and both Kilmac and Advance have enough confidence in the programme that they approached Dundee City Council to take on another programme of young people starting in March 2017. This next programme will again target young people who have had contact with the criminal justice system and also those who have experienced the care system. As a further show of faith in this model, Advance Construction will provide this year’s successful candidates with a full week of accredited construction training at their training centre in Livingston.  This means that this latest group of candidates will be the most qualified to go through the programme so far.

This intensive partnership between such a number of partners, from both the public and private sectors, could have been a logistical nightmare.  However, due to the overwhelming agreement that this had to work for the young people, all issues were ironed out and dealt with quickly. Lessons had been learned from the pilot programme which had led to additional elements being built into the second programme such as trying to organise work placements close to the candidates’ homes where possible, providing vouchers to cover lunch costs and circulating a partners’ contact sheet so employers and partners could always contact each other.


While it was all about ‘second chances’, clear outcomes were expected that were solely based on the employer’s actual skills requirements. This clarity ensure a delivery structure which was directly relevant and kept participants motivated and focused on the end result.


Boundaries were also clearly defined.  From the first information session, young people were fully aware of what they were signing up for, what was expected of them and that they had the chance of a good job if they managed to successfully complete the programme.


Intensive 1:1 support looking at all the young people’s needs, excellent on-site mentoring, family-focused employers and partners with a ‘let’s get on with it’ attitude all ensured that the programme exceeded all expectations. Young people were also exposed to situations that they had never experienced, not only in terms of the tasks they were performing on site but also with their interactions with workers from all over Europe, and this provided them with a totally different perspective.

Contact details:

To find out more about this case study, please contact:


Kiley West

Programme Manager, Opportunities for All

Dundee City Council

01382 434967

Case study added to site: May 2017

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