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Rebecca Thompson: My year as CIOB president

27 June 2018 | By Rebecca Thompson

The outgoing CIOB president looks back at the achievements and highlights of her presidential year.

Each presidential year is unique, and mine has focused on three key areas: heritage, diversity and encouraging the next generation of construction professionals. 


Sharing conservation philosophy, values and practice with other built environment professionals has been a key part of my year. It’s been a privilege to be able to discuss both the science and practice of managing historic buildings, sharing the diversity of skills required to safeguard our cultural and built heritage, not only in the UK but worldwide. 

In the UK, the CIOB Academy Heritage Certification Scheme and training course, “Understanding Building Conservation”, has been a huge success so far.

The course has been designed by members to provide a comprehensive level of training in conservation for three different levels of expertise, providing professionals with the opportunities to expand their knowledge and specialise in this exciting sector.

I was also pleased to chair the annual Heritage Conference at Somerset House in April, which was a sell out again.

As a global institute, the CIOB is making a positive impact in the heritage sector, with building conservation expertise and methodologies in demand internationally.

Rebecca Thompson with Prince Andrew at York Minster

I was honoured to sign a Memorandum of Understanding with Suzhou Wudu Construction Investment Company in Shanghai in December. 

We will be working together on research, construction methodologies and training. Our construction professionals in China are keen to share their knowledge of cultural and built environment heritage supporting our aim to see the CIOB create a global high standard for conservation.


I have really enjoyed my work on diversity within the industry. This industry is about people, and delivering quality buildings for people, so we need diversity in every sense and description, not just gender diversity. 

I have chaired a number of events on diversity, equality and inclusion and met some incredible leaders in this area. We enjoyed a workshop in February in York, led by Sonia Bate of EDIT Development, which helped to establish the purpose and values of the new Special Interest Group.

And a key highlight of my year has got to be the Construction Manager of the Year Awards and being able to present the first female Margaret Conway, with that top prize. I hope her fantastic achievement is an inspiration for more women to follow in her footsteps.

Next generation

Against a backdrop of skills shortages in the whole construction industry, the heritage sector creates demand for truly specialist skills at technical and professional level. More needs to be done to ensure construction professionals are competent to maintain and restore our historic building stock.

While our professional qualifications are a trusted benchmark, the CIOB has been working hard to ensure that changes to further and vocational education are responsive to industry demands and positively redress skills shortages.  Most training has focused on modern building, so we are now working to ensure traditional and heritage skills are not lost. 

Some of my favourite events this year have been associated with encouraging the next generation of construction professionals. For example: an evening with George Clarke at the University of Wolverhampton; Willmott Dixon’s Open Doors event at the Old Admiralty Building; The Worshipful Company of Constructors and CIOB joint event for the Ian Dixon Scholarship Awards – this was truly inspirational.

However, my favourite has to be the reception at Westminster celebrating the young winners of the My Kinda Future competition to design and specify a building to enhance their community.

One of my presidential highlights is the Quality Commission and I also received the highest honour being invited as a Woman of the Year to their event in September.

I was also privileged to be a judge for the CIOB’s Art of Building photography awards.

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