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Rising to the Challenge

Government Minister Jamie Hepburn was once again the guest of honour as the CABEC contest returned to showcase engineering innovation and teamwork among school pupils

After an absence of three years, it was marvellous to see the talent of tomorrow in action once again as the Construction and Built Environment Challenge (CABEC) made a welcome return.

The annual contest has inspired thousands of S2 pupils since 1999 thanks to its series of construction, engineering and building services challenges.

Devised and run by colleges, university staff and training providers, CABEC aims to highlight the exciting careers in the sector to pupils at a vital stage in their education, with schools in Edinburgh and the Lothians invited to put forward a team of 10 youngsters aged 13 and 14.

“I hope every pupil took something valuable from this experience that they can use in the future”

After a three-year break due to COVID-19, we were keen to make up for lost time – and this year’s final certainly didn’t disappoint!

Gathering at the Edinburgh Corn Exchange on Thursday 19 January, the event was the culmination of a number of heats which saw 300 pupils put their skills to the test.

Whittled down to 100 pupils from 10 schools, the final saw each team undertake more practical challenges, which were marked on a number of criteria including teamwork, understanding and carrying out instructions, working safely and completing tasks.

“The pupils enjoyed the day from start to finish and were delighted to win CABEC 2022/2023”

The 100 finalists arrived with plenty of enthusiasm and, after a close-fought contest with some excellent feedback, the coveted winner’s trophy was lifted by George Heriot’s School from Edinburgh.

Runners-up spot went to Firrhill High School, also from Edinburgh, while bronze went to the pupils at Beeslack High School in Penicuik. Each team member won gift vouchers, with the schools also receiving a cheque for their CDT department.

Valuable skills

I was delighted that Jamie Hepburn, Minister for Higher Education, Further Education, Youth Employment and Training, was able to take time out of his busy schedule to present the prizes.

Afterwards the MSP said: “CABEC is a unique and valuable learning experience for young people.

“It is great to see the 100 finalists undertaking challenges and developing skills and knowledge related to the construction sector. I hope every pupil took something valuable from this experience that they can use in the future.

“The construction sector is upskilling its workforce to deliver a decarbonised built environment, making it a critical sector as we move towards our net zero ambitions.

“We therefore need enthusiastic and passionate young people to take opportunities like CABEC and consider construction as a career path.”

Christie Wilson from George Heriot’s School added: “The pupils enjoyed the day from start to finish and were delighted to win CABEC 2022/2023. I was also extremely proud of their teamwork and communication throughout.

“CABEC is a fantastic opportunity for pupils to get hands-on with a wide range of activities

and challenges and introduce them to STEM-related careers.

“The competition is set at the right time for S2 pupils as it encourages them to pick STEM subjects, particularly design and technology.”

An inspiring event

From a personal point of view, I thought it was an excellent event and the SECTT team did a magnificent job. As always, the day went in a flash and the feedback I received from the teachers was heartwarming.

For many, the original CABEC heats had been the first time that classes had been out of college since the pandemic and I was very impressed by all the teams, who worked very hard.

I found the pupils to be extremely engaged and interested and I’m always inspired by their thought processes and how they find ways to approach each challenge and work together to find solutions.

CABEC also shows that we’re fortunate to have a fantastically diverse group of challenge providers who are only too willing to share their knowledge and expertise with pupils and teachers.

I’m already looking forward to the heats for the 2023/24 challenge later this year when we can do it all over again!



  • Scottish Electrical

  • Charitable Training Trust(SECTT)

  • Edinburgh College

  • SRUC Oatridge Campus

  • West Lothian College

  • Napier University

  • Heriot-Watt University



  • Armadale Academy

  • Beeslack High School

  • Castlebrae Community High School

  • Firrhill High School

  • George Heriot’s School

  • James Gillespie’s High School

  • Lasswade High School

  • Leith Academy

  • Linlithgow High School

  • Stewart’s Melville College




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