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Scottish construction leaders work together to improve digital capability of the sector

Working alongside other trade bodies and professional associations in Scotland, such as Hub South West and Skills Development Scotland, the Construction Industry Training Board (CITB) has supported the creation of a helpful guide for SME businesses.

With a strong focus on helping businesses implement digital technologies, the guide collates all the relevant support from various sources, including the Scottish Government, the UK Government, Construction Scotland Innovation Centre (CSIC) and CITB. Additionally, it provides helpful links and details around who is eligible for each type of fund or support.

The decision to produce a guide was put forward after the cross sector Digital Strategy Steering Group identified a lack of awareness around the support available for SMEs. With the group including input from members of CSIC, Scottish Government, Scottish Futures Trust, Digital Construction Skills, and construction employers, the aim is to enable more businesses to realise the potential of digital adoption, helping them grow and thrive.  

Digital Construction Skills, funded by CITB to support SMEs, are available as an initial point of contact to help businesses identify which of the support measures are the best starting point for them. Digital Construction Skills also offer fully funded digital leadership training and mentoring to CITB registered companies.

Saffron Grant, Managing Director of Digital Construction Skills, said: “Even with a useful document like this, companies might be reluctant to try and access support if they are worried it might be more hassle than it’s worth, or that it might lead to a dead end if they are not eligible. We can help any construction business quickly work out what is most relevant to them regardless of whether they are CITB registered or whether it is for digital construction support or more general upskilling or business improvement. This is a free service.” 

Michael Lennox, Senior Customer Engagement Manager at CITB, said: “Many CITB registered companies don’t realise there is grant eligible training for all sorts of digital skills, including drones, laser scanners, GNSS, robotic total station, 3D mapping and modelling software, 3D machine control and BIM. This means the full costs could be claimed through the CITB Skills and Training Fund.”

One example of funding mentioned in the guide is the Flexible Workforce Development Fund. Construction companies have recently used this to fund digital skills training such as drone use, GNSS and product training for a new accounting platform.

Additionally, the UK Government’s ‘Help to Grow’ management course is also highlighted in the guide, which is a 12-week part-time course for SME owners and senior managers. As part of the course, delegates are provided with 10 hours of support from an experienced business mentor. University of Strathclyde, one of the delivery partners for the course, ensure that construction companies are paired with a mentor with deep construction sector knowledge.

Pat Shields, Owner and Director of Optimus Decorating recently completed the course and said: “The course has completely changed the way I run my business. Among many other things, I have changed the way I recruit staff and identified how I can use digital tools to save time and money and improve sustainability. The course has unlocked massive potential in my business, and helped me focus not just on efficiency, productivity and growth, but also on the social value our business can offer and the benefits of having a diverse workforce.”

Lynsey Brydson, Head of Digital Programmes at CSIC, said: “Small and micro construction companies are missing out on tens of thousands of pounds worth of funding and support which could help them improve the digital capabilities of their business. Construction industry stakeholders have worked together to map out how different sources of funding could be used to help with this. This includes things like funding for training, free mentoring and the Digital Development Loan, which is an interest free loan of up to £100k from the Scottish Government.”

Mark Houston of Hub South West said: “There are over 50,000 enterprises in the construction sector in Scotland. The whole sector stands to benefit if the digital capability of the supply chain is enhanced, but one of the biggest challenges we face is that many business leaders are not clear on the support available or how digital adoption is linked to business improvement. We recognise the critical role that Tier 1 contractors can play in driving transformation, and we are pleased to say that companies such as Morgan Sindall, Balfour Beatty, Morrison Construction and McLaughlin and Harvey are all going to help us disseminate this document to their supply chain companies.”

The guide is available to download from the Digital Construction Skills website and will be updated regularly.