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Pictured: Thanks to the community benefit clause in Falkirk Council contracts, Cameron Bell gained work experience at Cadgers Brae that led to an apprenticeship with the Hillhouse Group.

Across the local area a series of ambitious infrastructure projects are changing the landscape in more ways than one. Managed by Falkirk Council, these programmes of work are not only improving our roads but also opening doors for many inexperienced and long term unemployed local people.

As part of the council's procurement approach, each infrastructure contract includes a community benefit clause that requires businesses to provide wider social value as well as deliver on their main contractual obligations. These benefits can be social, economic or environmental, with the minimum requirement being they engage with the council’s Employment and Training Unit (ETU) to offer meaningful work experience, apprenticeships and even jobs.

Malcolm Bennie, Director of Place Services, Falkirk Council, said the clause was about "investing in our future, one project at a time". Adding: “These projects are not just improving our infrastructure they are laying the foundations for future generations to thrive. By ensuring the companies that work with us deliver wider community value while enhancing our physical infrastructure, we also equip local people with the vital skills they need to succeed.”

Transforming lives

Over the past six months, several young people aged 16 and 17 have embarked on a work experience journey that has not only paid them a fair wage but also given them skills for life.

Organised in partnership with the ETU, the work placements have given them the chance to discover potential future careers by immersing themselves in the delivery of a major infrastructure project for up to six weeks.

One such collaboration is with Balfour Beatty, who are delivering the A9/A904 Westfield Project, the largest and most significant infrastructure investment under the council’s innovative Tax Incremental Finance (TIF) programme.

The international infrastructure group has so far provided two youngsters with four weeks of structured, hands-on training that saw them receive an industry-recognised qualification.

Chloe Alexander, graduate Civil Engineer, Balfour Beatty, with ETU trainees Kaydn Cartwright and Cameron Elliot on site at Westfield.

Pictured: (left to right) Chloe Alexander, graduate Civil Engineer, Balfour Beatty, with ETU trainees Kaydn Cartwright and Cameron Elliot on site at Westfield.

One of the ETU trainees, Cameron Elliot (16), from Bo’ness, gained a wealth of knowledge while on site and a desire to work in the construction industry. After completing his initial placement, he returned to the site to undertake a further two weeks of work experience, this time in the concrete testing lab.

Cameron said: “I got so much out of my time on-site, working with lots of different people, getting the chance to learn about groundworks and how it all fits together. I was working with graduate engineers, as well as site operatives and the site manager and got a qualification too - Gold Industrial Cadet Award. The ETU made this all possible for me and I really enjoyed the additional time I had on site”.

David Murray, Senior Agent, Balfour Beatty added: “By embedding the community benefit clause into the contract, we are committing not just to build infrastructure, but to build better - better skills, better opportunities and better futures for the young people in Falkirk.”

Balfour Beatty has also worked directly with three local high schools - Braes, Falkirk and Grangemouth - to provide week-long work placements to three pupils who each gained a Bronze Industrial Cadet Award. The company has also created a job on site for a local person.

Positive impact

The direct impact of these opportunities on local people’s lives can’t be underestimated. For the three individuals who joined RJ McLeod, the firm that delivered the Denny Eastern Access Road (DEAR), it went beyond work experience. They gained full-time employment.

RJ McLeod hired Gregor Johnston from Falkirk as a graduate engineer who has gained valuable experience working on the DEAR project.

Pictured: As well as delivering community benefit tied to the DEAR contract, RJ McLeod also ran its own employment drive and created an additional local job. The firm hired Gregor Johnston, from Falkirk, as a graduate engineer who gained valuable experience working on the DEAR project.

Christina McKitrick, Corporate Social Responsibility Manager at RJ McLeod, said: "Delivering community benefit, in particular work placements and jobs, is about giving people a chance to see what they're good at, and more importantly, what they can become good at. For RJ McLeod, it’s not just about filling roles temporarily; it’s about building futures.”

For Cameron Bell (17), from Brightons, his experience working on another of the council’s TIF projects at Cadgers Brae has now led to an offer of an engineering apprenticeship with the contractor, Hillhouse Group.

Cameron said: “When my Employment and Training Co-ordinator, Jimmy Montgomery phoned to tell me I was starting the six-weeks work experience - I was buzzing! It has been so good being on-site, working with people who’ve been doing this for years; I’ve learned so much. And I’m properly buzzing now getting offered an apprenticeship; it’s brilliant.”

Andy Stevenson, Project Manager, at the Hillhouse Group shows Cameron Bell the ropes.

Pictured: (left to right) Andy Stevenson, Project Manager, at the Hillhouse Group shows Cameron Bell the ropes.

Andy Stevenson, Project Manager for Cadgers Brae, Hillhouse Group said: “We were so impressed with his work ethic and approach to the job that an apprenticeship seemed the obvious next step. Being able to provide that experience and the first step onto the career ladder is something we are very proud of. We get a young enthusiastic new member of our team; he gets the opportunity to work, earn a wage and learn skills that will help him have a fulfilling career in our industry.”

For more information on community benefit and the work of the ETU visit the council’s website.