​Investing in skilled labour is vital to our future - Foysol Choudhury

​We looked on with horror last month as Edinburgh residents were urgently evacuated from a tenement which was found to be structurally unsafe.
Foysol Choudhury MSPFoysol Choudhury MSP
Foysol Choudhury MSP

This incident got me thinking back to last summer, when I attended a construction skills demonstration and saw how integral these skills were for the sustainability of Edinburgh’s tenement housing stock.

Not only that, but construction skills apprenticeships bring employers and the education system closer together, to benefit both the industries which need skilled workers and the young people who can develop a new career.

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The future of these construction skills apprenticeships to help maintain tenements like the one involved in last month’s incident, however, are under threat.

Edinburgh College has reportedly stopped delivering the stonemasonry apprenticeship, which would have helped to develop a workforce which could maintain Edinburgh’s aging tenement estate.

After Edinburgh Council declared a housing emergency, it is also more vital than ever that construction skills apprenticeships are funded and made readily available.

Investing in skilled labourers who can help build and restore both new homes and historic buildings, in addition to ensuring they are wind and weather-tight for energy efficiency, is vital to solving Edinburgh’s housing crisis and ensuring future sustainability.

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Yet, the lack of sufficient funding from the Scottish Government means that more skilled apprenticeships may be at risk, meaning the shortage of people with the correct skills and knowledge in the sector will likely worsen.

We urgently need increased support from the Scottish Government to fund construction and traditional skills apprenticeships, to address this skills gap.

I lodged a motion to this extent last year, pressing for action. Following the worrying developments in Edinburgh’s housing market, I will be pursuing this issue further so that we can see a sustainable, skilled construction industry in Scotland which is able to support the building and maintenance of our housing stock.

Hopefully we do not see a repeat of the incident with the Edinburgh tenement last month, but we need to ensure our construction workforce is equipped with the skills and experience to repair and maintain the homes if we do.

Foysol Choudhury is MSP for Lothian Region

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