Learn Live broadcast inspires students about a career in construction

Last week, Mark Robinson joined delivery partner Balfour Beatty on the Learn Live initiative and through a live video link-up, spoke to over 1,000 students across the country about the construction industry and what steps he has personally taken to facilitate a successful and rewarding career in the sector.

Learn Live is an innovative and interactive live channel that opens up a world of opportunities and experiences for young people from the comfort of the classroom. Using the latest online technology, students and teachers can link with local businesses, industry professionals and schools/colleges across the globe to take part in live broadcasts and discussions.

Broadcasting live from the Baron's Quay project in Northwich, Cheshire - a £50 million mixed-use development being delivered by Balfour Beatty - Mark Robinson opened the session by telling the students about his personal experiences from school through to getting his first job.

Not long afterwards, Mark knew he wanted to progress into more senior roles, and the key to transitioning into a supervisory or management position was to gain the necessary qualifications. Mark spoke to the students about his progression through college, which was supported by part-time management courses as well as discussing how he achieved an ONC in Building, a HNC and a Masters degree from Sheffield Hallam University.

I recognised at a very early age that qualifications, training and development are really critical to success. If you want to be successful then you need to invest time in getting the right qualifications.

Mark Robinson, SCAPE Chief Executive

Mark puts his rapid career progression from senior management, through to Head of Service and now Group Chief Executive down to a combination of having the right skills, a natural ability and the confidence in himself to succeed. Commitment, passion and drive are essential to help anyone achieve their potential whether that's succeeding on a course or learning practical skills on-the-job. Mark cited his personal work ethic of "rolling up his sleeves and getting involved" as playing a crucial part in this.

Within the construction industry, the impact of the skills shortage is no secret. In SCAPE's 'Sustainability in the Supply Chain' report, it was found that 85% of public sector managers believe the quality of their work had been affected as a direct result and with a staggering 19% of contractors and sub-contractors not offering an apprenticeship scheme, it is little wonder that the issue is now at breaking point. Industry professionals and organisations working collaboratively to encourage and inspire the next generation, plays a crucial part in ensuring that the industry is continually injected with the right skills and talent.

Mark went on to explain what a wide variety of careers the construction industry has to offer, challenging the perception that "coming home with muddy boots" was all there was to it by introducing the students to some of the more technical and specialist roles available which can be interesting, creative and extremely rewarding such as surveying, engineering or architecture.

Construction is a really diverse industry and should be a career of choice. It's something that I personally am very proud to be a part of.

Mark Robinson, SCAPE Chief Executive

As the broadcast came to a close, Mark spoke about the difficulties in understanding how to get an apprenticeship or what steps young people need to take to get the right training and qualifications to get a job, and that ultimately there is no single place where this can be done. However, providing guidance and support for those wanting to access these routes is a responsibility that sits with us all. Mark advised any students interested in a career within construction to contact their local councils who may have apprenticeships available. Alternatively, local authorities could certainly put students in touch with local builders or national contractors.

Balfour Beatty is one such contractor, who are proud members of The 5% Club. This employer-led scheme focuses on creating momentum behind the recruitment of apprentices and graduates into the workforce. Balfour Beatty became members of The 5% Club in December 2013 and were the first company in the infrastructure industry to join. Balfour Beatty is committed to ensuring that, within five years of joining, at least 5% of its workforce consists of apprentices, graduates and sponsored students.

Balfour Beatty offers graduates the opportunity to be part of either a technical or business graduate scheme. The two structured schemes focus on a variety of topics which cover building and construction management, engineering, quantity surveying and commercial management, health and safety, transport planning and the environment, HR, IT, marketing, general management and finance.

Currently, 4.6% of Balfour Beatty’s workforce is made up of apprentices, graduates and sponsored students. This equates to 270 apprentices and 180 graduates working and training at Balfour Beatty. Each year around 150 additional apprentices and 120 additional graduates are recruited across the UK.

We would all like to thank Clare Huber, Senior Programme Manager for Construction & Regeneration Major Projects from Cheshire West And Chester Council for hosting the broadcast from their development project at Baron's Quay.