John Cairns

John Cairns is a social impact advisor at Balfour Beatty. Here, he shares his experiences of working alongside Foundation Apprentices.

In three words, describe providing a foundation apprenticeship

Engaging future experts

How do you prepare for foundation apprentices?

Before starting Foundation Apprenticeships we think about ideas for project work which we could get students to support.

We also consider who will be main point of contact for apprentice and the surrounding members of team that would be involved with the placement so that we have a collective group which can support the work placement.

What does it surprise you that the apprentices know?

I’ve always been surprised about apprentice’s knowledge and use of different software packages, whether that is use of Adobe suite of software or 3d modelling software like Auto Revit.

Students have always been quick to pick up and use software which is suggested and this works particularly well during placements as it results in the placement focusing more on completing a task which is of value to us and the students learning.

And what does it surprise you that the apprentices don’t know

I’ve perhaps expected students to know more about construction projects in their area and in particular works which have been reported in the local press over 3-4 year period as projects move through design and into preconstruction/construction.

What’s been the most satisfying or rewarding thing so far about providing foundation apprenticeships?

Seeing student’s progression and journey through the apprenticeship is particularly rewarding.

Often at the start of the placement the students are not 100% sure about what they want to do beyond school but as the placement progresses it is great to see students formalise ideas and become more confident about their choices and aspirations.

And here is John's advice to any employer who is thinking about providing a placement for a foundation apprentice.

With the FA in 5 series, we ask those who have been involved with a Foundation Apprenticeship about their experience. If you would like to be involved with My FA in 5, contact

If you're a young person, parent or employer and want to find out more about Foundation Apprenticeships, visit