AN IRVINE housing development has helped inspire a number of local teens into the construction trade.

Several young people from the area are now planning a future in construction after Riverside Scotland and McTaggart Construction gave them a foot on the ladder.

They all began by working for contractor McTaggart Construction on the 77-home Tarryholme development in the town.

And for some of the new employees, their new role means so much more than just a job and way to earn a living.

Grant Mitchell, 18, has struggled with Asperger's syndrome and dyslexia all his life but has been offered a job at McTaggart’s Tod Timber factory in Fenwick after his two-week placement in Irvine.

Grant was working for his father’s wedding business but always “had an eye open” to switching to the building industry because he is a “guy who likes to work with his hands”.

“Even in school the subjects I mostly passed well were ones that required me to work with my hands rather than writing,” he explained.

His condition mainly affects the way he speaks and he finds it difficult to join in a conversation with more than two people.

Loud noises can also bother him - but on site he finds no trouble speaking to people.

He added: “I don’t have to keep up a happy appearance, I can just speak to people.”

To shield his ears from loud noises, he wears ear protection.

Grant said the placement Riverside Scotland and McTaggart “gives you an opportunity to find work but also learn from other companies who are working on the site”.

He will be mentored by McTaggart’s Tod Timber factory manager Billy McNocher.

McTaggart has provided much support and guidance to young people on the government’s Kickstart Scheme, which gives employers funding to create jobs for 16- to 24-year-olds on Universal Credit.

And Grant is not the only Irvine youngster to benefit from a role through this scheme.

Connor Wales, 19, is now six weeks into a job with McTaggart as a bricklayer on the Tarryholme site, having secured the role after his initial two-week placement.

He had thought about becoming a roofer but the insight the work experience gave him now means he wants to qualify as a bricklayer and perhaps move into management in the future. 

“I like being hands on with what I’m doing,” he said.

"And I’m learning the trade as I go along. The people are really nice, we have a laugh."

Connor is enjoying the sense of achievement of building the homes.  “Everyone needs a house”, he stated.

He said he would encourage anyone thinking of working in construction to do it, adding: “It’s really hard work but worthwhile”. 

Ethan Mackendrick, 16, lives in a Riverside Scotland home and has been studying sports and fitness at college - but after his two-week placement is now looking to switch to a future in construction when his college course finishes in June this year.

He said he prefers construction to his current studies because you are “on your feet all day outside”.

Another person who has moved to the trade recently is Lewis Burns, who is also 19.

Lewis said he applied for the Tarryholme placement because he wanted to “give construction a try” and now wishes he had “got into construction sooner”.

He worked with scaffolding contractors for the last few days of his placement, where his work ethic impressed leading to an offer of a role as a trainee scaffolder.

Lewis is enjoying the physical challenge of the job – and having the money to buy new trainers!

And it hasn't just been youngsters plying their trade at the Irvine development - it has also given some more experienced hands a route back into the industry.

Scott Pettingale, 34, another Tarryholme resident, has come back to a career in plumbing, a career he has enjoyed on and off for 19 years. 

He returned to working for McTaggart after two-and-a-half years of running a pub, and says he loves the fact that he is not tied to an office desk and gets to move around and meet people.

“It’s a good job,” he said. “I like the customer services side and you get to move about. I couldn’t work at a desk.”

Riverside Scotland started work on phase two of Tarryholme in May 2021 after 87 homes were built in 2019 in the first phase.

The £13million project – which is supported by a £6million grant from the Scottish Government will focus on providing homes for those with specific accessibility needs.

As such, more than 60 per cent of the properties will be designed to suit wheelchair users, armed services veterans and those with additional mobility needs.

The new homes include 12 two-bed cottage flats for veterans, 36 two-bed amenity bungalows, three two-bed bungalows for wheelchair users and two three-bed bungalows for wheelchair users.