Building Skills for Construction

Image for Building Skills for Construction
Lead Organisation:
Dundee City Council
Award Amount:

Building Skills for Construction was a New Scots Refugee Integration Delivery project led by Dundee City Council, in partnership with Fife and Clackmannanshire Councils and WEA Scotland (the Workers Educational Association), which aimed to help skilled refugees gain the certification they need to work in the construction industry.

Funding was used to develop two training courses for beginner and intermediate students, aiming to give non-native speakers the language and knowledge they need to pass the CSCS operatives test.

The materials, developed by the WEA Scotland, are now available to download for free to help adult learners pass the CSCS test. The materials may also be of assistance to native speakers with literacy and numeracy barriers to their learning. 

New Scots reached
Key Information

This Project aimed to address the barriers that skilled refugees arriving in Scotland face in accessing careers in construction and to enhance their employability.

The project team hoped to produce a high-quality, downloadable learning resource and to demystifying the process around construction industry certification for adult learning providers supporting New Scots.

Key Information


WEA Scotland, Dundee and Angus College

Geographical reach

Learners from across Scotland were invited to participate. Face-to-face courses were carried out in Clackmannanshire, Dundee, Fife, Edinburgh and Glasgow.


14/09/2021 – 31/10/2022

Target Groups


Project Type

Supporting innovation


In 2019, Dundee City Council staff carried out research with colleagues from across Scotland into the needs around construction certification for adult refugees. The research revealed that this was also an employment barrier in other parts of Scotland with similar efforts and frustrations, as well as a duplication of effort, amongst staff supporting refugees locally.  In all cases there were extensive barriers at every stage of the process.
Staff from Dundee City Council, Fife Council, Clackmannanshire Council and WEA Scotland worked in partnership together to plan and deliver a project which sought to address some of the challenges identified in 2019.

Involvement of New Scots in project

Refugees were involved as participants and stakeholders with whom we shaped the project delivery. As they gave feedback on the course each week, the project worker was able to amend and adapt accordingly. She also spoke to some of those involved in the previous courses across Scotland and gained their feedback.
The project team worked with a refugee from a construction background to develop resources.


By building an ESOL classroom around the skills, knowledge and understanding of those involved we were able to develop a high level of commitment and achieve many of the projects aims.

We have created High-quality downloadable learning resources which can be used across the UK to support all adult learners to increase their awareness of health and safety and work towards achieving CSCS certification. We have also created a guide for staff who wish to support clients to gain construction industry certification.

Delivered by English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) teachers, seven pilot projects were carried out in Dundee, Fife, Clackmannanshire and online to test out the materials with 50 skilled refugees from Syria, Ethiopia, Ukraine, Hong Kong, Afghanistan, Turkey and Yemen. 41 people gained Health and Safety certification and 8 people were able to gain CSCS Green Operative Cards enabling them to work on UK building sites.

Challenges encountered

  • It was felt that the project had come too late for many of those resettled through the UKRS and for whom the need for the project was identified as they had either found other work or were no longer looking to work.
  • There were capacity issues as a result of Ukrainian conflict. This was particularly the case in Dundee and Fife where ESOL tutors were working beyond capacity to support Ukrainian citizens which was a priority.
  • Challenges around booking the CSCS Test and the format and language of the test itself.
  • Industry communication & attitudes.
  • Lack of realistic pathways into the industry: Without full-time employment and thousands of pounds of funding it is virtually impossible for skilled migrants to have their skills recognised in the UK construction industry. Certification does exist through OSAT (On-site Assessment Tests) but it is costly, requires a guaranteed work placement and geographical inequalities exist in accessing such certification.
  • Becoming a self-employed tradesman may be the best route into the industry but registering as a sole trader, organising public liability insurance and managing a self-assessment tax return is extremely challenging for non-native speakers of English, many of who have had limited education in their home countries.


  • If there is indeed a construction industry with a skills shortage the conditions need to be created so that skilled migrants can enter the industry. A framework needs to be created to ensure that skills can be recognised, foreign qualifications accepted, funding needs to exist to ensure certification.
  • Certification costs and procedure should be the same regardless of whether a test is booked in English or with an interpreter and geographical inequalities must be considered.
  • Community benefit clauses should be targeted to those who most need the opportunities, including those from New Scots communities.

The positive aspects of taking on a new approach (innovative)/How the project has expanded on existing examples of good practice (good practice)

  • I think forming a project team across local authority and geographic boundaries between public and third sector agencies was innovative and allowed us to develop materials which are responsive to Scotland’s different communities and will work in different organisational settings.
  • By learning about something in which they are interested and have experience our participants were able to increase their language skills and knowledge. While we have not successfully managed to address many of the barriers that refugees face when entering the construction industry, we have been able to identify what these barriers are and suggest ways that they might be addressed in future.  


We have created an “off the shelf” resource which is be available to all adult learning providers across the UK for free. We believe that this work could be carried out using core budgets and we have identified other local funding streams which could meet additional costs for health and safety training if required. This learning can help refugees access further learning opportunities, enhance their employability, as well as empower them to progress within the workplace.  
Our participants were from diverse backgrounds and communities and had different visa status allowing them different freedoms and levels of support. It was nice to have the funding to work with them all equitably, based on their needs, regardless of circumstances. Core funding does not usually allow this type of work to take place and although we have tried to future proof the delivery by identifying funding for H&S training, those with asylum status will not be able to avail themselves of it as they will not be eligible for an individual training account.

Project Partners