McLaughlin & Harvey step in to get young Quantity Surveyor’s career back on track

McLaughlin & Harvey step in to get young Quantity Surveyor’s career back on track

Every sector of the economy was caught-off guard when the Prime Minister announced the very first lockdown last March, including the construction industry. Despite the initial shock, most CECA Scotland member companies were able to continue working through most of the pandemic (albeit with significant restrictions to protect the workforce) to keep our critical national infrastructure operational and safe.

However many construction firms were not so lucky and, faced with the uncertainty and a downturn in new building work, unfortunately some apprentices were left in the lurch after losing placements part way through their studies. Scott Pennycook found himself in this position during the second year of his Quantity Surveyor apprenticeship when the Edinburgh building company he was working for was hit badly by lockdown.

The Edinburgh local is studying Construction in the Built Environment (Bsc) at Heriot-Watt University and was facing the prospect of having to leave the Graduate Apprenticeship route to go back to finish his degree as a full-time student.

Networking with CECA Scotland members to find a new job


Determined not to let this set back stand in the way of his apprenticeship, Scott shared his CV with CECA Scotland and was soon contacted by Bellshill-based McLaughlin & Harvey Construction Ltd.

Neil Jamieson, Commercial Director at McLaughlin & Harvey, said:

“As a result of the pandemic, we didn’t start any trainees during 2020, so when the opportunity presented itself to plug a year-on-year graduation gap we were more than happy to interview Scott and subsequently employ him. At interview Scott came across as honest and sincere, but more so as someone who just wanted an opportunity and was really keen to make the most of it.”

Plugging the skills gap


Everyone in construction is aware of the growing skills gap, with the sector needing to attract 26,000 new workers over the next five years in Scotland, but we have yet to fully understand the impact of the last year or so on the pipeline of new talent coming in to the industry. Companies who take on second or third-year apprentices are making sure that young people like Scott get their careers back on track and remain committed to construction in the long term. And as an added bonus, McLaughlin & Harvey have found other benefits of taking on a more ‘mature’ apprentice.

Neil continued: “Scott obviously has more ‘life skills’ given his previous experience, as well as an appreciation of working as part of a team or working on your own to deadlines, that maybe a first year trainee won’t have.”

Scott is now in the first few weeks of his new job and is settling in well, meeting a number of his colleagues and learning about the projects that he will be involved in. He has been carrying out various tasks and exhibiting the enthusiasm that was evident at his interview.

Apprentice Profile

Name: Scott Pennycook

Title: Trainee Quantity Surveyor


Previously the majority of my career had been in the financial sector until I decided to make the change to Quantity surveying. My Dad works in the construction industry and I occasionally helped him out whenever he needed a hand which gave me a taste of the construction world. I really enjoyed working with him and soon realised I wanted to take my career in this direction. With my skills and experience involving numbers from my previous jobs I looked into Quantity Surveying as a new career option which brought together both of these.

How did you feel when you found out that you were being let go from your previous company?

Losing my previous job wasn’t completely unexpected due to the financial hit the business took during the pandemic but there was still a little element of surprise when I was let go and a little disheartening as I wasn’t sure if I would find an employer that could take me on and continue my training.

How did you feel when you got the offer from McLaughlin and Harvey?

If I hadn’t got the position at McLaughlin & Harvey I would have most likely looked at going to university full time in order to complete my degree. I had always planned to go to University full time before my previous employer came to me with the option of an apprenticeship, which was always going to be a better option than full time study. That situation didn’t work out with them so I was delighted to receive the news that I was being offered a position at McLaughlin & Harvey and couldn’t be more grateful that they are able to continue my training along with it.

How do you see your future at McLaughlin and Harvey?

I hope my future at McLaughlin & Harvey will provide me with an exciting and fulfilling career. All the people I’ve been in contact with have been great and really helpful in the short time I’ve been here and I look forward to my career to progressing with them.