McTaggart Construction – building for the future, creating opportunity

featured are modern designed smei-detached houses built by McTaggart construction

From time to time, we find ourselves being asked whether our funded construction management training for supervisors and managers merits the significant investment of time, effort and commitment demanded of both candidates and assessors. Thankfully, this type of questioning arises rarely since we are blessed to have worked with Scotland’s leading construction and civil engineering firms throughout our 35-year history. We’re proud to maintain a consistent 94% candidate success rate coupled with universally positive feedback based on these mutually-beneficial partnerships.

To quote the inspirational American poet and civil rights activist Maya Angelou, “I did then what I knew how to do. Now that I know better, I do better.” One recent graduate from our SVQ Level 4 programme in Construction Site Management (CSM), James Thomson of McTaggart Construction is an equally enthusiastic advocate for lifelong learning.

featured is a modern designed block of flats set to the right with a cobbles car park in the foreground with one white car parked in front of the flats
Kilsyth Road
Image courtesy of McTaggart Construction
© Alexander Fraser Photography

James joined the McTaggart Construction team in summer 2020 following a successful career as a self-taught assistant site supervisor drawing on his training as a skilled joiner. At initial interview stage with the McTaggart senior management team, James shared his thirst for learning as well as his desire to gain promotion to site manager with a view to ultimately being assigned his own construction site.

McTaggart Construction is one of six key business units which make up this community-focused group. The company was founded in Dalry, Ayrshire in 1946 by brothers George and Willis McTaggart and several members of the McTaggart family continue to work within the business.

Sustainable, affordable homes

McTaggart Construction’s commitment to building quality sustainable and affordable family homes has been rewarded with several awards, including reaching the finals in six separate categories of the 2020 Scottish Home Awards – Scotland’s largest independent awards initiative for the housing industry.

Their teams build around 750 new homes each year for the affordable housing sector, predominantly through framework partnership agreements with Scottish housing associations. The company also offers strategic land development, as well as in-house design and engineering support services.

James Thomson featured in a yellow high vis  vest in profile smiling at the camera. Wearing a McTaggart Construction scarf round his neck
James Thomson
Image courtesy of McTaggart Construction
© Alexander Fraser Photography

James provides some insight into his long-held career aspirations: “Like many experienced trades professionals, I left school without formal qualifications and have come to believe that this can, ultimately, leave us at a disadvantage in terms of career progression.

“I had bult up a solid repository of industry knowledge and practical techniques absorbed through working alongside older mentors and resourceful contract managers, however that can only take you so far. We’re all aware that technology is advancing at a rate of knots and the construction world is a very different place from 10, even five, years ago. There’s no way you can function well in this industry flying by the seat of your pants. It’s vital to keep expanding your skills, so I was delighted to learn that I’d be joining three colleagues in starting the CSM workshop with Esteem Training.”

David Currie, Esteem Training’s programme delivery manager adds: “The McTaggart Construction candidates were the first group for whom we were able to hold in-person, socially-distanced workshops at our Glasgow offices after the Scottish Government announced the easing of certain COVID restrictions. James initially had his work cut out, having to play catch up after he was forced to miss the first workshop in early September 2021 due a family member testing positive for coronavirus.

“Yet we had no concerns over his abilities or level of commitment – in fact that holds true for the entire McTaggart Construction team who took part. They were a sharp, friendly group well briefed and clearly familiar with company processes.

Talented, committed teams

“McTaggart Construction has a robust career progression framework in place, such that each member of James’ group already had experience in the assistant site manager role and had been identified for potential future transition into full site management. Despite being a relatively recent addition to the team, James was focused and determined to deliver a top-quality job. You could literally watch him absorbing each new piece of information then follow up with searching questions to be sure of what was being asked of him, both from the online modules and during the workshop sessions. In fact, James arrived early for our second workshop in order to have additional time with my colleague Karen MacArthur, our candidate support coordinator and myself.”

James continues: “I really appreciated the additional tutoring from Karen and David, particularly their guidance on uploading evidence using the phone app. The Esteem approach is respectful, based on building close relationships with each candidate. I really warmed to that since it’s how I like to operate. With their help, my IT Skills – which once left a lot to be desired – have vastly improved and I’m proud to have made real progress since I had tended to avoid IT-related tasks. That mindset is simply not helpful if you want to further your career in today’s construction environment where IT literacy is a given.”

Karen MacArthur, candidate support coordinator continues: “James is so pleasant to work with and sent a series of charming emails thanking us for the additional support, yet that’s precisely our role – to provide support and encouragement wherever and whenever required. We love seeing our candidates progress, sharpening their skill sets and James was no exception. He is meticulous and asks lots of questions so that he’s clear not only about what’s being asked but also the kind of evidence he’s going to have to pull together then upload. He communicates well and quickly created a trio of high-quality videos despite never having made a single video before the course.”

Opportunity-based culture

McTaggart Construction has a finely-tuned culture of expanding career opportunity through active development of the company’s ‘human capital’ as Ross Hammell, Community Benefits Manager explains: “The McTaggart approach is all about developing our people, and that means offering Modern Apprenticeships across a wide spectrum of age groups and job functions, not merely providing apprenticeships for the young as important as those undoubtedly are for our collective future.

“Many of our staff are superb operatives – the best in the business, we believe – yet have few formal qualifications and can sometimes downplay their abilities and contributions. We’ve been pleased to observe that, after working with Esteem Training, they consistently gain newfound confidence together with a sharper understanding of our business and the high value we place on their skills and leadership.”

Surrounded by a modern designed white and grey block of flats. There is a courtyard in the middle with railings. There are wooden planterson the perimiter of the courtyard
Granton Harbour
Image courtesy of McTaggart Construction
© Alexander Fraser Photography

As with every Esteem Training programme – whether OWS (Occupational Work Supervision), CSS (Construction Site Supervision) or CSM (Construction Site Management) – peer information exchange sessions represent an important and discreet forum for colleagues to exchange personal experiences and discuss challenges encountered, together with solutions devised. James found this aspect of the course of particular interest since his fellow candidates were long-term employees of McTaggart Construction and therefore able to discreetly share ‘real life’ company scenarios and how these related to their daily schedules.

He is keen to underscore the invaluable support he received from McTaggart Construction’s community benefits assistant Stephen Rodgers, and community benefits manager Ross Hammell, and their faith in his abilities demonstrated by enrolling him in the construction site manager course. While Ross handled registration, internal communication and liaison with the Esteem Training team, Stephen provided James with ongoing support on implementing key company processes, highlighting accompanying documentation to be accessed when fulfilling the site manager role.

Ross continues: “I’ve worked with many different learning providers and have been really taken with the Esteem approach. Programme modules are set up in ways that are logical and easy to follow, with each candidate receiving proactive support throughout their learning journey. Our teams are never left floundering or feeling isolated, and I believe that’s a key element contributing to their increased confidence and the pride they feel in achieving these advanced qualifications, as well as to Esteem’s candidate success rates.

Protected learning time

Granton Harbour
Image courtesy of McTaggart Construction
© Alexander Fraser Photography

“McTaggart Construction provides protected learning time for our teams – we operate a ‘no interruptions’ policy – yet that approach is only possible with the level of support we get from Esteem Training. For example, Esteem’s assessors will identify then provide additional coaching for any candidate who might be struggling. That investment in personal relationships sets Esteem Training apart from other learning providers I’ve worked with. I also know that I can pick up the phone at any time for a confidential chat to discuss our current or future training needs.

“We appreciate how invested Esteem’s assessors are in mentoring candidates through the programme and how Andy Findlater, Esteem’s business development manager, will call me to discuss the best course of action for individual members of our team. Sometimes that means holding off registering a candidate since they’re likely to be in a stronger position at a later date. This all demonstrates to me that we have a proactive partner who’s invested in ensuring our continued success.”

The final word from the ‘sharp end’ of the learning experience goes to James: ‘Absolutely it was tough going at times, juggling full-time work, commuting and completing the often-challenging assignments ahead of deadline however I’m glad that I persevered and so grateful for the support from David and Karen. They always made themselves available to answer my questions and requests for clarification and were patient without being pompous or condescending. I genuinely believe you could take anyone off the street, bring them into an Esteem Training workshop and they’d leave having learned a lot.

Below-the-waterline business issues

“In this life, you can’t wait for things to happen – you have to create your own opportunities and be flexible in your approach. My home might be in West Lothian, yet I’ve covered as a ‘floating’ assistant site manager for multiple company locations all over Scotland including a six-month stint at our Kilsyth Road site in Kirkintilloch, north-east of Glasgow.

“I’ve taken other courses in the past and they’ve been helpful but I feel that they don’t offer a comprehensive enough grounding either in the site manager’s role and responsibilities or a sufficient grasp of why we need to ensure key working practices are strictly enforced. The course with Esteem Training gave me a new appreciation of below-the-waterline business issues and the associated certifications that need to be factored in, together with an understanding of the potential negative consequences, even penalties, for the company should quality site management not be consistently applied.

“I found the modules dealing with conflict resolution and defusing aggression fascinating and so applicable to the types of incidents that can arise on construction sites. Having completed the CSM course, I now believe that many site managers would benefit from securing this level of senior education since it would help them to function more effectively in the role. As a result, I’m confident that I’m now qualified to manage any site and that’s a great feeling.”

Call Andy on 07766 658083 to discuss any training you may need for yourself or your team, or email him at

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