As the construction of the new National Treatment Centre (NTC) in Inverness continues to progress, a group of higher pupils at Charleston Academy were given the opportunity to see the process in action thanks to a unique partnership between the academy and building company Balfour Beatty.

The pupils are currently enrolled with Design Engineer Construct (DEC), an accredited learning programme aimed at providing aspiring built architecture, engineering and construction professionals with hands-on experience in the industry. A contingent of 36 students, including twenty studying at level one standard (National 5) and sixteen at level two (Higher), were involved in two site visits to the NTC, which took place in October 2021 and earlier this year, allowing the students to appreciate a large-scale project and the huge progress that took place between the two trips.

Left to right: Jonathan Richards – Charleston DEC! teacher, Kevin Minnock MCIOB CCM – Project director NHS highland, pupil, pupil, pupil, pupil, pupil, Tony Elrick – Balfour Beatty Project manager, Bethany Welsh – Balfour Beatty Social Impact Coordinator.

Accompanied by Balfour Beatty project manager Aiden Teague, NHS Highland Director of Strategic Planning Deborah Jones and NHS Highland Project Director Kevin Minnock, the school children were given a guided tour of the NTC site and discussed technical and logistical considerations of the project.

Following on from their visits, the students each prepared a portfolio reflecting on what they had learned over the course of the year. From creating models at scale to recording videos and supplying material handouts, the pupils put a remarkable amount of effort into these final pieces of work, with all the level 2 students achieving a pass and one achieving an ‘A’ grade in their portfolio and exam.

With site visits having been restricted over the course of the pandemic, the students relished the opportunity to engage with the NTC team and their impressive course results reflected how beneficial their visits had been.

NHS Highland Director of Strategic Planning, Deborah Jones, said: “It’s been heartening to see the students’ enthusiasm for learning about the construction of the NTC. They asked insightful and thought-provoking questions and used their newfound knowledge to achieve great results in their course. We hope that the students visits will provide lasting inspiration and motivation for these young construction professionals as they embark on their career journeys.”

Bethany Welsh Social Impact Coordinator at Balfour Beatty said: “It has been great to support Charleston Academy pupils through their DEC! programme using direct industry experience. Having gone through a Civil Engineering apprenticeship route into construction but never having this opportunity in secondary school, I can clearly see the benefits the programme brings to someone with an interest in the industry and beginning to explore careers in depth at this early stage.”

“We are able to support not only the students but the teachers too with the newest technologies and methods of construction and also providing onsite visits so that they can experience a live construction site safely. I am looking forward to continuing this support for the new level 1 and 2 pupils.”

To learn more about the partnership between Balfour Beatty and Charleston Academy on Twitter, follow @NHSHighland on TWITTER and FACEBOOK.