Robert Smith of Hays Montrose says that, in central Scotland, PFIs are leading the way

The construction market in the cental belt of Scotland has been busy over the past year, with many PFI school projects at tender stage and just past tender stage. Two of the largest projects under way are schools in the East Renfrewshire and Renfrewshire area. Major contractor HBG Construction is managing the East Renfrewshire district and Carillion will be looking after all the schools set for building and refurbishment in Renfrewshire. Up to 15 schools for each district will be renovated or entirely rebuilt in the near future. The deadlines for these projects have not been set, although the Scottish Executive has made a commitment to upgrade public education facilities over the next five years.

In Lanarkshire, another schools upgrade project was recently won by Balfour Beatty, and a further five schools projects in the region are at tender stage. Akash Marwaha, a manager with Hays Montrose Scotland, says: "For a long time, housing - from social to high-spec - was the hot industry in Scotland, but now it is important to get facilities up to scratch for the burgeoning population. This has been the case for the past three years and most areas are going through this stage of development. Glasgow's schools project finished two years ago, while Edinburgh's is ongoing."

There are also a number of hospital projects under way. "PFI is really leading the way," says Marwaha. "Many of our clients, including both major and smaller UK contractors, believe this is the way forward for Scottish construction."

Hundreds of medium-sized private projects are also in the pipeline, with an emphasis on multistorey luxury flats. Glasgow and Edinburgh have harbourside developments taking place, which include luxury apartments and high street retail outlets. Glasgow's harbourside residential development alone is estimated to be worth about £300m.

Akash says local contractors are building such a good reputation in Scotland that they are looking to expand elsewhere in the UK. "The marketplace is extremely busy and a lot of eyes are on the projects being developed here," he says. "Robertson, Barr and Ogilvy Construction are three of the biggest Scottish contractors that have been gaining a foothold in the UK market for the past five years. There is such a variety of jobs that candidates get very good experience, whereas in the past they would move south to gain a wider knowledge of their industry."

Site and project managers and quantity surveyors are in high demand. There are also lots of vacancies for civil design and site engineers. Pay has dramatically increased over the past five years. In 1999, a senior surveyor would have been on £22-23,000. This has risen to £35,000.

Akash says: "Companies are trying to tempt back people who are originally from Scotland. We have placed quite a few people over the past year who are Scottish but have been working down south, and we are also attracting people from elsewhere such as South Africa, Australia and New Zealand. Scottish contractors tend to prefer candidates with some background in the local industry however."

Akash also thinks education is creating a huge problem for the future. "The industry is not good at selling itself to potential candidates, so there are very few fresh graduates coming through - far fewer than there were five years ago. A QS graduate can walk into a job with a salary of £18,000 plus car and benefits in Scotland, compared with £13,000-14,000 for graduates entering other industries. If they're good, they will get fast-tracked through their career and given excellent bonuses."