Just the job

9 June 2010

As construction regroups to face new economic realities, companies will need fresh skills. Kristina Smith highlights 10 jobs you could soon be applying for. 

01 Chief financial engineer

Attributes: A high-level operator, who can mix forward thinking on sustainable development with fresh  ideas on project finance.

Salary: Depends on the firm, but up to six figures with a major contractor.

For an industry that has lived its life from project to project, this is a difficult concept to get your head round. But if more is spent now on developing greener homes, better schools and reliable public transport infrastructure for new developments, the built assets will be more valuable.

So the challenge for contractors keen to exploit development or partnership opportunities is this: how do you build the financial models that can calculate the value of what these assets will be worth in the future, use it to unlock investment today, and create a return on investment tomorrow? Whole-life costing comes into it, as well as the expected shift towards carbon-efficient property.

Look at Willmott Dixon. When it announced a major restructuring in November last year, it created Willmott Dixon Regeneration by amalgamating its investment, development and housing arms. The new company will specialise in “developing longer term mixed-use regeneration projects that are expected to form an increasingly important part of Group operations, often in some form of public private partnership”.

Other contractors have indicated their intention to invest in public sector projects in “son of PPP” type deals, Carillion and Wates among them. Just what form these partnerships will take is unclear.


02 Head of translation

Attributes: A poacher turned gamekeeper who can translate between the language of the client and the language of the contractor.

Salary: £50,000-£100,000 in a big company.

The world is changing. Clients are changing. And construction bosses are nervous. “The biggest concern among chief executives is not understanding client needs in a changing market place,” says Dave Stitt, executive coach at DSA Building Performance. “Contractors think that what clients want is to do with delivering on time, on budget and safely. They are hugely mistaken.”

For some contractors and consultants, the answer has been to bring in people from the world their clients occupy. At Willmott Dixon, Adrian Hill, formerly a senior investment manager at Sport England, is now the face of the business for leisure clients. And Cyril Sweett has employed an industry insider to help connect with clients in the hotel and leisure sector.

“If you go back 10 years, the traditional contractor and consultancy marketing manager was a jack of all trades, “ says Paul Nash, the firm’s head of hotels and leisure. “Basically, he was good at entertaining. Clients don’t want to see those people any more. Our clients are business people. Their time is precious. You have got to be able to go in and talk their language and then deliver
on your promises.”

Stitt has a word of warning, however, if construction firms thrust outsiders into operational roles: “There is a danger that people are brought into organisations from the client side, then within a month they are sucked onto ‘this is how we do things here’. They are sunk by the need to keep their heads above water.” So if you’re planning an external hire, the key is to make sure they’re good swimmers.


03 Programme Management Office (PMO) Manager

Attributes: An IT role, but no computer nerds need apply. You need charisma, strong relationship skills and a head for strategy.

Salary: £45,000.

A survey of top contractors and consultants for the “Building on IT 2010” report (CM, May) found that contractors and consultants are part of a trend to outsource more and more services. The report found that more than 50% are already outsourcing networks, application maintenance and support, server hosting and management, help desks and data administration.

This creates the need for what is termed a project management office (PMO) and hence a PMO manager. This person can procure and manage these services and act as a connection between the business and the service providers as needs change over time. Such set-ups are well-established in other sectors such as pharmaceuticals, retail and financial services.

“The management teams within IT departments will need to acquire new skills and the departments themselves will slim down,” explains the Knowledge Practice’s Ken France, one of the report’s authors. “The PMO manager needs very strong relationship skills because this is an ambassadorial role. They need a good blend of skills to work alongside the IT director and finance director.”

One construction firm leading the way is Mouchel, which has its own company PMO and additional PMOs attached to partnerships with local councils. IT director Martin Proudlove says the PMOs serve a variety of functions, prioritising and controlling the flow of projects and allocating resources as well as providing analysis and reporting to the board.

For PMO roles, Proudlove is looking for people who are direct in their approach, analytical and process- and action-oriented, with good attention to details. “This isn’t a role for shrinking violets,” he says. “PMO managers need to be confident, prepared to challenge  and good communicators.”


04 Climate Change Manager

Attributes: Passion for the environment, a persuasive nature and a sense of humour – for when everyone takes the mickey out of your job title on site.

Salary: £40,000-£50,000 according to Hays Construction.

Think of the changes in health and safety over the past decade, and the number of people now working in that area. Now double it. This is how many people will be needed in the industry’s carbon reduction quest, says George Martin, Willmott Dixon’s head of sustainability.

Jesse Putzel, BAM’s climate change manager, has a broad-ranging brief which includes working with different groups in the business and measuring the firm’s carbon footprint, including the carbon expended on running sites. The next step, says Putzel, will be to consider schemes’ embodied energy, working out and reducing the carbon impact along supply chains.

Martin is an advocate of employing carbon managers on every project. But shy, retiring types shouldn’t consider this role. As well as knowledge of how buildings fit together, procurement, finance, and life-cycle costs, he says this person will need “arrogance, the ability to speak out and the ability to bang the table very, very hard”.

Martin is close to appointing the first carbon manager of this ilk on a project in north London. The individual, a partner from a leading M&E consultancy, will be part of the design team charged with challenging every decision in terms of its carbon impact. “You need gravitas for this role,” he says.

But be warned, Bovis Lend Lease’s head of sustainability, Paul Toyne, predicts that sustainability teams will eventually slim down as professionals gain sustainable know-how. “Sustainability managers need to make themselves redundant,” says Toyne, “Sustainability expertise needs to be embedded in existing roles so it’s not seen as an add-on, but part of the skills set.”


05 Systems integrator

Attributes: Forget traditional construction management skills, this role co-ordinating offsite projects requires a manufacturing mindset.

Salary: Senior production managers in manufacturing earn £40,000-£65,000.

Whatever you do, don’t call this role offsite construction manager. Not if you’re talking to Richard Ogden, chairman of Buildoffsite. “If you use the same terminology as you did in the 20th century, people will expect the same things,” he chides. “A systems integrator would be a person who brings together all the component packages. These components are incredibly well manufactured to a very fine tolerance so that they 

clip together without having to break them, amend them, or adjust them. It’s zipping it all together in an Ikea way.”

Ogden isn’t the only industry figure to believe that offsite’s time has finally come. A certain Mr Ray O’Rourke has just invested £100m in his own prefabrication facility in Steetley in the East Midlands – and he’s not usually one to get it wrong.

Ogden sees systems integrators coming to construction with project management skills from industries such as aerospace, automotive and oil. “Conventional Mr Fix-Its don’t have the clarity of thinking that the system assembler has,” he says. “It’s like trying to mix oil with water.” And the skills needed for assembly on site are also different. On the MoD’s SLAM (single living accommodation) project, Ogden points out that Corus Living Solutions used Ghurkas to assemble their buildings because “they are good at doing what they are told to do”.

Peter Caplehorn, technical director at Scott Brownrigg, suggests that as the offsite market matures and quality goes up, the technology will spread from the student accommodation, prisons, budget hotels and universities sectors into other areas.


06 Global supply chain manager

Attributes: Flexible and agile, with the ability to adapt procurement styles to suit the client and the market. Languages helpful.

Salary: £50,000 plus for top firms.

Like it or not, construction is already a global business. Marble comes from China, bending schedules are produced in India overnight and Tesco expects its store in Korea to be the same quality as the one in Canterbury. Supply chain managers therefore need a whole new set of skills.

Paul Nash, head of hotels and leisure at Cyril Sweett, says: “Increasingly, contractors are entering into alliances abroad and that throws down a whole different set of challenges. It’s not easy to find people who have the right skills. We may need to look further afield to other industries.”

But there’s also an opposing trend – supply chain localisation. (Anyone caught up in the ash cloud problem will know it makes sense.)So Nigel McKay, Bovis Lend Lease UK’s head of procurement, supply chain and quality management, says there is no one right answer. “Supply chain managers have to be agile and flexible,” he says. “It’s no use learning that you should be rationalising the supply chain if you don’t get any commercial benefit in the current environment.”

McKay is looking for people with excellent analytical and technical skills who can influence others. Sometimes, clients will want two opposing things – such as value and local spend – so procurers will need to be flexible and innovative.


07 Stakeholder relations manager

Attributes: Emotional intelligence. A slick communicator with an understanding of psychology.

Salary: £35,000-£40,000 in housing, according to Hays Construction.

Housing refurbishment contracts are suddenly looking a whole lot more attractive to a whole lot more people. Public sector spending will be taking a severe kicking, so people are focusing on areas where money will have to be spent, such as social housing.

Community engagement managers have long been employed here to act as an interface between disgruntled householders and tradesmen, and such people will be in greater demand in the coming years.

However, this role has also spread into other public sector projects, as contractors seek integrators to connect up all the interested parties and keep them all happy through the various stages of design and construction.

Appleyards, a project manager in the Partnerships for Schools Academies framework, employs stakeholder managers with an understanding of education. “It’s all about expectation management and communication skills, someone who can pull all the threads together,” says Appleyards’ CEO Colin Morrell.

Even on smaller public sector projects, contractors are managing a new layer of stakeholders. Nicholas Fowler, business improvement manager at Denne Construction, has developed a standard approach to training and skills on its sites, involving school engagement activities, work experience, apprenticeships, work for long-term unemployed, NVQs, and short courses. “Firms will need to think of employing someone to manage that process across their projects,” says Fowler.


08 Head of happiness

Attributes: Must like soft-ball, sponsored anything and drinking. Joie de vivre essential.

Salary: Who needs money when you’re having fun?

Here’s a few things you could try to brighten up your working day: send a thank you email to a colleague for something they have done; meditate daily; compliment colleagues on things you admire; write a diary of things you are thankful for.

If your colleagues suggest that the men in white coats may be coming soon, simply explain that you are employing a few tools
from the positive psychology school of thinking. This is Happiness Coaching, on its way to a business near you from the US.

Colin Morrell, CEO of Appleyards, thinks there’s something in this. “Business has got to be fun!” he enthuses. “If we are a high-performance business, you have got to give people the opportunity to let off steam and get to know each other.” At Appleyards, an employee consultation group, known as Eve (employee voice and ears) has collectively been appointed chief of happiness. It organises events like the Christmas party, team days, internal competitions – and old-fashioned after-work beers.

But all this fun does come with a health-warning: you have to make sure your people are engaged and motivated first, or no amount of partying will make them happy, says Morrell. “If you have happy, engaged people in your business who really like what they are doing, they will be productive. And ultimately clients will respond to that.”


09 Head of energy management

Attributes: Knowledge of building services, ability to analyse energy uses and an interest in new technologies.

Salary: Agency ATR Solutions is seeking an energy manager for an FM firm at £55,000-£60,000.

Most occupiers don’t really get the best out of their buildings in terms of energy efficiency. Add in all the complexities linked to renewable energy generation and quickly you see the need to employ a head of energy management.

“When you have a biomass boiler or a CHP plant or PV panels, somebody needs to manage all these processes and link them into the building management systems,” explains Willmott Dixon’s head of sustainability George Martin. “Buildings today don’t perform to their design because once they are handed over, there isn’t enough skill to run it.”

And it isn’t just new buildings where the challenge arises. In April the government introduced a feed-in tariff for photovoltaic panels which will pay owners for every KWh of electricity they generate.

All this has to be considered in the light of the newly introduced CRC Energy Efficiency Scheme, which requires all businesses over
a certain size to start recording and reducing their carbon impact.

“Any building you go in, there are ways to save money,” says Anthony Coumidis, director of McBains Cooper and head of sustainability innovation, who is training a team to carry out “green audits” on buildings to help owners or occupiers improve energy efficiency. “It may require expenditure, but within two years, you will have payback.”


10 Head of Branding

Attributes: You need to identify what’s special about the business and persuade everyone else to behave accordingly.

Salary: £40,000 on average.

Now, more than ever, it’s important to communicate to your customers what you are about and what differentiates you from the rest. “The psychology of purchasing is that people decide emotionally first,” says Colin Morrell, CEO of Appleyards. “It’s about the emotional trigger that you want to elicit in the eye of the customer.”

One firm that has been through a rebranding in a bid to strengthen its hand is Scott Brownrigg. “Our brand was too diluted because we were known by too many names,” says technical director Peter Caplehorn. “In a more competitive market, that could mean you lose work.”

Morrell says branding is trickier for contractors because so much work is carried out by their supply chain: “If there’s a contractor that could nail this, I think they would clean up.”

What all firms should be aware of is the importance of the internet. Chris Luebkeman, Arup’s director for global foresight and innovation, points out that all contractors have – or will have – a digital presence. “If you don’t have a digital presence, one will be done to you or for you,” warns Luebkeman. “It is extremely important for contractors to appreciate this and be pro-active.”


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