Award winning programme is encouraging children to get into construction

The West Lothian Woodworking Initiative, delivered by West Lothian College and funded by the HCI (Housing and Construction Initiative) Skills Gateway, part of the Edinburgh and South East Scotland City Regional Deal , is supporting children through interactive carpentry and joinery workshops.

Supervised by teaching staff in nurseries and primary schools, the project allows children to craft their own figurines using recycled timber and handheld tools.

Graeme Binnie, programme founder and lecturer at West Lothian College, established the initiative almost two decades ago, with a vision to help bridge the skills gap and create more opportunities for girls and young people to get involved in the construction industry. This offers alternative pathways for creative learners and trains practitioners to deliver the workshops in their own classrooms.

Graeme said: “These workshops create an inclusive and engaging educational environment for pupils of all ages. Not everyone learns in a traditional, academic way and introducing hands-on activities in the classroom has had a transformative effect on pupils passionate about practical learning. 

“Numerous schools have expressed interest in integrating the programme into their day-to-day curriculum and are supporting this drive for real, tangible change in our education system and the construction industry. 

“I’m proud to deliver the West Lothian Woodworking Initiative and I hope to be able to extend its reach further to support practical learning for primary pupils as well as practitioners across Scotland.” 

The West Lothian Woodworking Initiative won the College Development Network’s (CDN) innovation award and the judges award in November 2023, and has been rolled out in more than 60 primary schools across West Lothian, bringing new access routes into construction for local children.

Yvonne Young, early years officer at Stoneyburn Primary School who participates in woodworking in her school added: “I’ve seen an incredible transformation among the pupils since we started working with the West Lothian Woodworking Initiative. The programme introduces construction to our pupils, and creates an exciting new way of doing things for the children and teachers. It’s a fantastic opportunity for us to learn new skills and adapt to a fresh way of teaching.” 

Kirsty Connell-Skinner, Programme Manager at HCI Skills Gateway, said: “It’s an honour to support the West Lothian Woodworking Initiative and continue the push towards closing the significant skills and gender gaps facing our construction industry. 

“Although women working in the sector recently hit an all-time high of 15.8 per cent, there’s still much more that needs to be done and the first step towards that is encouraging a greater diversity of young people to consider a career in construction so we can ensure we have a diverse and sustainable future workforce.”