We caught up with Cameron Bell, Acting Head of Learning and Skills: Construction Technology and Trades at Ayrshire College to find out about a new course his team are launching called NPA Building Services.
What’s the construction industry like right now – should parents be encouraging their son/daughter to start a career in this area?
Over the last ten years, employment in construction has been steadily increasing. It’s now at a record high. This is a great time to be thinking about getting into this industry. It’s not “just a job” it’s a career. There is a wide variety of job opportunities available in building services, construction technology and in each of the trades.
Some construction companies in Ayrshire have order books filled for the next five years with construction of schools, sports centres, social and private housing. For example, Morrison Construction has just been awarded the contract to build the East Ayrshire Learning Campus bringing together Auchinleck and Cumnock schools. Working in partnership with Morrison Construction we have taken an innovative approach with this project and have organised a classroom on site. This means when our students are learning about a particular aspect of construction they can spend time on the site seeing the theory put into practice.
We are also hoping that the South East Ayr project at Corton goes ahead as planned providing employment opportunities over the next 30 years.
What is your reason for introducing a new Building Services course this year?
Building services engineers are responsible for designing, installing and maintaining the services inside a building that are needed to allow it to function efficiently. These services include; heating, ventilation, air conditioning, refrigeration, plumbing and electrical.
Take any building whether it’s domestic (houses,) commercial (offices or shops) or industrial (factories and manufacturing) – now think about all the services they may offer – e.g lifts, escalators, sprinkler systems, alarms, environmental systems, electrical, gas, drainage, communications; all these require someone to design, install and maintain them.
There are opportunities for people to go down the design route and become system designers who would work with architects and the design team to integrate all the services into the building. They might be working on designs for new buildings or need to do appraisals of existing building to ensure the services meet the needs of the people that would want to use the building, perhaps for a different purpose from it was originally. For instance, an old factory and warehouse being turned into flats above a restaurant and shops would have the need for both domestic and commercial services all in the one building which originally had old industrial services!
There are also many hands-on practical jobs in electrical, plumbing, air conditioning, ventilation and refrigeration. Building Services is an umbrella term that covers all these careers.
You could be working locally for a very small company doing an individual trade to working for a large, national organisation in the field of facilities management who are responsible for maintaining all the services in a building. Your work could involve travel and working shifts so that clients have 24- hour cover. Imagine the challenges big superstores such as Tesco or Asda face if their refrigeration units break down or the money hotels and restaurants would lose if their gas supply failed or their power went down.
Now that you can see the size of the industry and the diversity of the jobs, you begin to understand just how much of a demand there is for talented engineers to work in these areas. There are entry level jobs such as apprenticeships available now, in Scotland, with progression opportunities all over the world. Scotland has a great reputation worldwide for engineering. We wanted to introduce more courses that would allow people to start their engineering/construction career at college as we know there are lots of opportunities for skilled and qualified people all over Scotland.
What opportunities are there once you have achieved this course?
Once you have achieved the Level 5 course you can move into the Level 6 course at Ayrshire College.
After this, you have a choice to move to various HNC courses in Building Services, Electrical Engineering, Construction Management or Mechanical Engineering.
For those who wish to go down the academic route, there are HND and degree courses available. Some of our students choose to go down the apprenticeship route. This requires finding an employer to take on an apprentice. This is a 3 or 4 year commitment so it’s a great way to develop skills and achieve qualifications.
Have a look at our website here for more information on courses available.
What’s so special about Building Services Engineering?
You can find out more about the Building Services sector here.