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"We need to educate, inspire and motivate young people"

Alison Watson, managing director of Class of Your Own, tells us why she loves construction.

How did you get into the industry?

My career in land surveying started in a fairly extraordinary way. Leaving school after my A levels, I chose not to go to university - I didn’t know what to study.

Taking what little careers advice I had for a maths-focused young woman, I applied for a job in a bank and did not discover the construction industry until my mid-twenties.

I was first taken on site by a civil engineer and was immediately smitten with the working environment - not to mention applied trigonometry! I gave up my bank job and pursued a career in topographical surveying.

This led me to set up my own surveying company and I was employed for a number of years on the UK government’s Building Schools for the Future programme.

After meeting so many children in schools, I eventually established Class of Your Own, the UK’s first social enterprise providing specific learning programmes and qualifications for secondary school students with a professional and digital built environment focus.

What is the best thing about construction?

Construction is such a varied, vibrant industry offering a world of opportunities for young people.

Working in construction is not just about having a job - it can lead to a rewarding, fulfilling career.

If you could change one thing about the industry what would it be?

I’d love to see more collaboration between construction professionals and young people.

They are the future of the industry and right now we’re not engaging them effectively.

I want construction, whether that be engineering, surveying, architecture or management, to be the number one career choice for school leavers.

How should we encourage young people to join the industry?

We need to educate, inspire and motivate young people to turn them into the next generation of design, engineering and construction professionals.

There’s no better way of doing this than bringing young people and industry together through education, which is why COYO’s Design, Engineer, Construct! learning programme for secondary schools is so vital.

We currently have over 20 DEC! schools adopted by industry sponsors, and over 50 still waiting for adoption, so demand is high.

Students on the programme have the opportunity to learn directly from professionals as well as their teachers, and most importantly gain the practical skills and knowledge needed for real job roles by applying the subjects they learn to real processes.

We don’t dumb down - students are using industry-standard equipment and software when they are studying DEC!

For construction professionals, getting involved in the course gives them a great opportunity to see the latest talent in action, and to help them engage with and shape the future of the industry.

Alison Watson is managing director of Class of Your Own

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