Kier Group

Blog: Setting my ‘sites’ on a thriving career in construction

Amanda Byrne

Amanda Byrne

Amanda Byrne details her experience of being a woman working in the construction sector.

People are always surprised when I tell them that I’m a construction site manager.  ‘That’s not a job for a woman, surely?’ is usually the response I get.  It just goes to show that appearances can be deceiving!

Growing up, I had my heart set on becoming a sports journalist. I was good at English, I liked travelling and played rugby and cricket at school, so it seemed like the perfect job.

By the time I finished school, the construction industry in Ireland was booming and I opened my mind to seriously thinking of a career in this industry.  I enrolled in a four year Construction Management degree at Waterford Institute of Technology in the south of Ireland and my journey started from there.

During the summer breaks I worked for a large construction company, getting on-the-job experience of site management.  I learned a huge amount and by the time I graduated, the firm took me on full time as an Assistant Site Manager.

I thrived in this environment – the fact that two days aren’t the same, working with different people, finding solutions to overcome daily challenges and the sheer satisfaction of seeing a building come out of the ground before your eyes, all adds up to a really rewarding job.

In 2003, I was ready for my next challenge and took up a position at Kier Construction Scotland.  Since then I’ve been involved in several major construction projects and was promoted to Site Manager in 2007.

With Kier, I’ve had the privilege of working at some major projects at Edinburgh Airport, Fetes College, the Western General Hospital and now the Edinburgh College of Art, to name just a few.

I’ve never experienced any set-backs from being a woman in construction.  I’m also lucky to have a great boss and together we make a fantastic double act!

There’s no doubt that there is still a perception that the construction industry is dirty, cold and that we generally dig things!  It’s really not the case.  Of course, I spend some of my time out of the office, patrolling the site, checking quality and safety, but equally I spend much of my time being office based and having briefings and meetings and working with a large team of tradespeople, architects and engineers.  It’s a great feeling being part of a big team and I’ve developed a solid knowledge of so many aspects of construction.

Equally, there are loads of training and development opportunities within Kier.  Soon I’m heading off to Edinburgh Zoo for an ecology day to learn more about protected species and plants – every day really is a school day!

Undoubtedly the construction industry is facing a skills shortage.  It’s important that people begin to see past the traditional construction roles and consider the numerous careers available to young people, especially young women.

A recent report commissioned by Kier showed that 66% of teachers and careers advisors held negative views of the construction industry as a route for their students to pursue and 73% of parents wouldn’t want their children to even consider a career in the sector.

These findings make for shocking reading and I’m so glad that I was never put off considering a career in this fantastic industry which has rewarded me so much.

I’m really pleased Kier is working to change this perception and has pledged one percent of its workforce to act as career ambassadors in schools and colleges over the next 12 months engaging with the next generation of talent.

For my part, I’m currently working with Kier on a series of careers fairs throughout Scotland, raising the profile of construction and inspiring people to consider a role in this hugely rewarding and thriving sector. I’ve been working with high school pupils at careers fairs to try open their minds and help them consider that there are so many diverse roles within this industry – and very few of them involve digging!

  • Amanda Byrne is a site manager for Kier Construction Scotland

hub South West launches network to help companies win business from Tier 1 contractors

The hub Club meeting in Dumfires and Galloway earlier this month

The hub Club meeting in Dumfires and Galloway earlier this month

Construction and infrastructure-focused partnership hub South West has launched a networking arm which aims to better connect businesses throughout Lanarkshire, Ayrshire and Dumfries and Galloway.

The hub Club, which has already held three highly successful  inaugural events this month in Ayr, Cumbernauld and Dumfries, is aimed not only at bringing SMEs closer to Tier 1 contractors such as Morrison, Graham, Ashleigh, Morgan Sindall and Kier, but also at enabling companies engaged across a range of activities to meet each other and do business together.

Gordon Hunter

Gordon Hunter

Gordon Hunter, supply chain development manager at hub South West, who together with his team, has overseen the hub club launch events said: “We have been running a ‘Building for Growth’ programme for companies throughout the South West of Scotland for a few years now and the hub club idea evolved as a natural extension from our basic aim of getting people to meet, talk and learn from each other.

“We all know that people prefer to do business with people they know and The hub Club provides a regular forum for up to forty companies at a time, to sit down in a room together and talk about their businesses, share their experiences and potentially collaborate on projects together.

“We welcome all companies in the South West region to join The hub Club and to participate in our series of monthly events into 2018. Anyone interested can find out more from our website.”

Michael McBrearty, chief executive of hub South West, said: “Our mission is to enable cost-efficient design and construction of community facilities within South West Scotland and to provide value for money and generate growth in the local economy through a new method of partnership working and procurement.

“A fundamental part of that approach is to ensure that as many local businesses as possible are hired to contribute their skills and expertise to these projects. The hub Club helps us to achieve that objective by harnessing the vast range of expertise that already exists amongst SMEs throughout the region and putting it to work.”

Green light given as new Queen Margaret Academy reaches financial close

Work is now about to get underway to start building the new Queen Margaret Academy

Work is now about to get underway to start building the new Queen Margaret Academy

Plans to build a new Queen Margaret Academy in Ayr are a step closer with the official contracts now signed after reaching financial close.

South Ayrshire Council is now preparing to move on site to get work underway to deliver the new facility.

The £25 million project will provide places for 800 young people, with modern classrooms, interactive ICT, a large games hall, two gyms, two all-weather pitches, and hard games courts. The building will also house Psychological Services and a Supported Learning Centre, which are already based at QMA.

The new Queen Margaret Academy will be built in the grounds of the existing school and is expected to open in October 2019. The current building will be demolished after the new school opens with the site to be fully landscaped.

The main contractor for the project will be Kier Construction.

Councillor Peter Henderson, portfolio holder for resources and performance, at South Ayrshire Council, said the latest announcement was an important milestone: “We’re committed to providing young people with the best possible start in life, and delivering a first-class education goes a long way to helping achieve that.

“By investing in this significant new building we’re creating a base to transform the way young people are taught, with the replacement school a more flexible space in which to deliver lessons.

“The building and facilities will also be available for community use, which will help make the project an important local hub. With initial work due to start in the next few weeks I look forward to seeing this ambitious new project take shape in the months ahead.”

Michael McBrearty, chief executive of delivery partner, hub South West, said: “The new Queen Margaret Academy is hub South West’s fifth educational collaboration with South Ayrshire Council, having recently completed the new Ayr Academy, innovative modernisation at Marr College in Troon, and new primary schools for Dailly and Tarbolton.

“The new academy will provide a wonderfully modern and inclusive community facility that will provide excellent resources and opportunities for the area.

“We look forward to proceeding to site with contractor Kier Construction in the coming weeks.”

Managing director of Kier Construction’s Scotland & north-east England business, Brian McQuade, said: “We’re proud to continue our relationship with South Ayrshire Council and looking forward to delivering an exciting new project which reinforces our position as a UK leader across education.

“We’ll be on site soon to start to deliver this state-of-the-art teaching, sporting and community facility at Queen Margaret Academy, which will help to support future generations.

“As with all of our activity across Scotland, we will encourage the use of locally based suppliers and subcontractors, bringing economic growth in the area and providing employment and training opportunities for the people of Ayrshire.”

Kier wins £34.5m Clydebank hospital deal as group results remain upbeat

Golden Jubilee 1Kier Construction Scotland is to deliver the £34.5 million Golden Jubilee National Hospital in Clydebank as its parent group prepares to unveil a new trading update in line with current expectations.

The contractor has been awarded the role of Principal Supply Chain Partner to develop a new elective care facility at the hospital, as part of Frameworks Scotland 2.

The building work, at this early stage valued at £34.5m over two phases, involves building a dedicated cataract surgery unit as well as an additional orthopaedic and elective surgical care facility.

The award follows a Scottish Government announcement for expansion of the Golden Jubilee and five new elective treatment centres to be built across the country to carry out procedures like hip, knees and cataracts, in order to reduce patient waiting times and enhance patient experience.

The Golden Jubilee is a national resource for NHS Scotland; home of regional and national heart and lung services, a centre of excellence in orthopaedics, a major diagnostic centre and one of the largest cataract providers in the UK.

Kier Construction Scotland is expected to start on site early next year and their programme of work will be complete by 2021. The announcement follows a number of recent healthcare contract wins for Kier Construction Scotland, including work with NHS Grampian at Aberdeen Royal Infirmary, NHS Highland at Raigmore Hospital in Inverness and NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde at Royal Alexandra Hospital in Paisley and Inverclyde Royal Hospital.

Brian McQuade, managing director for Kier Construction Scotland, said: “This is another major win for Kier Construction Scotland and illustrates our strength in delivering healthcare projects throughout Scotland.  These new facilities will provide improved healthcare services within the Golden Jubilee National Hospital and well as giving the local economy a boost as we will be creating local jobs and learning opportunities for local suppliers.”

June Rogers, director of operations at the Golden Jubilee Hospital, added: “It’s great to see the plans for these new facilities take a step forward and reach this exciting stage with our partners. Our expansion will provide a number of community benefits such as additional jobs, learning opportunities and environmental projects.

“Once we get approval to proceed, our new facilities will make a huge difference to thousands more patients in the future. It will allow us to deliver more effective healthcare services by continuing to deliver a world-class standard of safe and effective care that the patients of Scotland deserve.”

Tradesmen inspecting workKier Construction, part of Kier Group, is one of five principal supply chain partners on the Framework Scotland 2, a national procurement programme for healthcare new build and refurbishment projects. Kier is also one of five principal supply chain partners on the NHS’ £600m Health Facilities Scotland framework for Capital Development in Scotland.

Ahead of today’s Annual General Meeting, Kier Group has also announced that it remains on course to deliver double digit profit growth in the current year and achieve its Vision 2020 targets.

The Property division is “performing well”, delivering a return on capital (ROCE) in excess of 20% on an increasing capital base, and securing a development pipeline remaining in excess of £1.4 billion.

The mixed tenure and private housebuilding businesses continue to make good progress as private sales and pricing remain strong and demand for mixed tenure housing continues.

The performance of the Construction division is underpinned by the regional building business and is delivering margins in line with the Board’s expectations. The current order book represents more than 95% of the division’s targeted revenue for this financial year.

The Services division continues to deliver with consistent margins and has a current order book representing more than 95% of its targeted revenue for this financial year.

Following its acquisition, the McNicholas business is performing well and good progress is being made with its integration.

£3m spec-built industrial unit completed at Clyde Gateway East

Clyde Gateway East Unit201 Aerial A001Construction work is now complete on Unit 201, a new 27,500 sq. ft. manufacturing and engineering facility at Clyde Gateway East Business Park.

Built by Kier Construction Scotland and being marketed by Ryden LLP, the £3 million industrial unit is the latest speculative new build undertaken and completed by Clyde Gateway.

Clyde Gateway East Business Park at Junction 2A on the M74 is already home to high calibre occupiers that include BT, Glacier Energy, Dentec and Cusack. The new unit provides 25,500 sq. ft. of highly-specified, column-free workshop space plus a further 2,000 sq. ft. of office and ancillary accommodation together with service yard and dedicated parking, all within landscaped grounds.

Ian Manson, chief executive of Clyde Gateway, said: “The past few months have shown a positive trend in the west of Scotland’s industrial property market, with good evidence of demand with high-quality space still in short supply. This new speculative unit has been built to attract companies from the key growth sectors identified in partnership with Scottish Enterprise, and I’m pleased to say we’ve had some very positive enquiries.

“Clyde Gateway’s reputation as a great business destination is growing all the time as more and more companies locate here to take advantage of our excellent transport links, skilled labour force, fantastic business support and superfast broadband provision. The recent completion of improvements to the motorway network east of Glasgow boosts the attraction of Clyde Gateway as a business destination even further.

“Clyde Gateway East also has excellent service and utility provisions and is the only manufacturing location in Glasgow to benefit from a Smart electrical grid, which is greener, more efficient, secure and reliable.”

Billy Linton, managing director of prestige vehicle repair & restoration company Dentec, who moved to Clyde Gateway East in 2016, said: “When our business recently expanded, we outgrew our previous home in Rutherglen, so decided to move to Clyde Gateway East. Since we moved here the profile and image of our business has grown massively, we’ve brought in more work and the response from our customers to our new premises has been excellent. We think we’re in a great location to take advantage of future opportunities and hopefully grow the business even further.”

Kilmarnock’s £45m campus project tops out

Michael McBrearty, chief executive of hub South West, delivers a speech during the ceremony

Michael McBrearty, chief executive of hub South West, delivers a speech during the ceremony

The £45 million William McIlvanney Campus in Kilmarnock has passed another important milestone with its topping out ceremony last week.

The event marked a crucial stage in the construction of the leading education facility, which is on target for completion next year.

The new Campus, which will create new opportunities and benefits for the entire community, will bring together Kilmarnock Academy and James Hamilton Academy, along with the merger of Silverwood Primary and New Farm Primary and Early Childhood Centre.

It is the latest initiative to be facilitated by hub South West, the construction and infrastructure-focused partnership which works with forward-looking companies and authorities in Lanarkshire, Ayrshire and Dumfries and Galloway.

william-mcilvanney-campus-topping-out-ceremony-131017_37623093226_oBeing delivered by Kier Construction for East Ayrshire Council, the campus will also promote the Gaelic language with a centre of excellence. It will accommodate 1,465 secondary, 383 primary and 80 morning and 80 afternoon early years pupils.

The new Campus honours the memory of the legendary author – known locally as Willie – who was not only a pupil at Kilmarnock Academy but later worked as a teacher. Its name will be a reminder for people who not only admired McIlvanney’s work but knew him personally.

Michael McBrearty, chief executive of hub South West, said:  “The William McIlvanney Campus is an ongoing success on so many levels. The enthusiasm of all participating partners working on this project is reflected in the excellent progress being made.

“This development has provided many educational activities for students from schools and colleges across the region who have participated in project related events. It has also created a number of opportunities for local apprentices and graduates.”

william-mcilvanney-campus-topping-out-ceremony-131017_36961810334_oCouncillor Douglas Reid, leader of East Ayrshire Council, said: “William McIlvanney was one of Scotland’s most important writers. He started his professional life as a teacher and remained a dedicated supporter of high quality education throughout his life.

“It is entirely fitting that his name will be associated with this exceptional development for generations to come.”

Brian McQuade, managing director of Kier Construction Scotland and north-east England, said: “Throughout the build, we have worked with local suppliers and SMEs to ensure that the project boosts the local Ayrshire economy. We have created 19 apprenticeships, 16 work placements and two graduate traineeships.”

Quarterly construction output down despite return to growth in August

construction worker stockA growth in construction output across the UK in August failed to offset a fall in output over the quarter, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) has found.

Construction output grew 0.6% month-on-month in August 2017, predominantly driven by a 1.7% rise in all new work thanks to private housing, which grew 2.3% and infrastructure, which increased by 3.6%.

According to ONS data the output in August 2017 was 3.5% higher than it was at the same time last year.

However, construction output shrank by 0.8% in the three months to August 2017 compared with the previous three months due to decreases in both repair and maintenance, which fell 0.6% and all new work, which fell 0.9%.

Responding to the figures, Kier Construction Scotland’s regional business development manager, Gordon Reid, said: “It’s encouraging to see construction output growing month-on-month and these positive figures echo Kier Construction Scotland’s performance, where our robust set of financial results show that we are expanding our order book and providing diverse and local employment and training opportunities throughout Scotland.

“We have recently been appointed as a partner on the £160m Aberdeenshire Council Social Housing Improvement Framework and we are also seeing steady growth from the education, health and heritage sectors.

“While these exciting projects bring the chance to attract new talent, the sector is facing a skills shortage and a lack of attraction by youngsters to careers in the construction sector which is exacerbated by poor careers advice. To help combat this, Kier has pledged one percent of our workforce who will act as school career ambassadors in a bid to change the outdated perceptions of working within construction and to highlight the breadth of career opportunities that the industry offers and the significant boost that the sector delivers to the economy.”

Allan Callaghan, managing director of Cruden Building & Renewals, added: “While there is no doubt that the construction industry has faced significant challenges in recent months, including economic and political uncertainties, the house building industry in particular, remains resilient.

“In fact, at Cruden, our order book has continued to grow, and we have recently reported our eighteenth consecutive year of profitable trading.  Proof in itself that quality, affordable homes remain in high demand.

“It’s important that we look ahead and ensure we have the right skills and resources in place to continue to grow. We invest heavily in our Cruden Academy to do exactly that – delivering best practice training and education as well as an award winning modern apprenticeship programme.

“I’ve no doubt the construction sector will continue to weather the storm and Cruden in particular will continue our steady and sustainable growth over the coming months and into 2018.”

Kier Construction Scotland appointed to £160m Aberdeenshire Council housing framework

Kier image 2

Kier Construction Scotland has been named as one of four principal supply chain partners on the new £160 million Aberdeenshire Council Social Housing Improvement Framework, which will see Kier deliver up to £40m worth of construction, renovation and maintenance improvements to thousands of council houses throughout Aberdeenshire over the next four years.

The work that Kier Construction Scotland will carry out includes:

  • installing new roofs and solar panels;
  • upgrading internal and external wall insulation;
  • renewing windows and external doors;
  • upgrading heating and electrics; and
  • installing new bathrooms and kitchens.

This housing improvement work complies with the requirements of the Energy Efficiency Standard for Social Housing (EESSH), set out in the Climate Change (Scotland) Act 2009, which aims to reduce energy consumption, fuel poverty and the emission of greenhouse gases for social housing in Scotland.

Kier has been appointed to carry out work in the East Region which includes the towns and villages of Peterhead, Ellon, Mintlaw, Maud and Cruden Bay.

The appointment is a significant win for Kier, which is already a partner on the £125m Aberdeenshire Council Capital Works Framework and has delivered extensive housing stock improvements for The Moray Council and The Highland Council.

Brian McQuade, managing director of Kier Construction’s Scotland and north east England business, said: “Kier is pleased to be a partner on this important framework which will make a huge difference to the lives of thousands of tenants throughout Aberdeenshire. Notably, we will also bring apprenticeship and employment opportunities to local subcontractors and SMEs, providing a further boost to this area.”

Aberdeenshire Council head of housing Rob Simpson, said: “Aberdeenshire Council is committed to undertake a programme of Social Housing improvement works for the benefit of its housing tenants. This involves a large annual capital investment to ensure compliance with the Energy Efficiency Standard for Social Housing (EESSH). To assist us in undertaking this large project we are pleased to be working with Kier Construction Scotland as one of four companies who were successful in the competitive tender.”

Kier Construction Scotland duo reach finals of industry awards

John Gilchrist (left) and Stephen Parker from Kier Construction Scotland

John Gilchrist (left) and Stephen Parker from Kier Construction Scotland

Two of Kier Construction Scotland’s construction managers reached the final of the prestigious Construction Manager of the Year Awards, held at the Grosvenor House Hotel in London last week with host, BBC news presenter Steph McGovern.

The awards event, run by the Chartered Institute of Building, is one of the most prestigious built environment awards in the world and also one of the most unusual: it is the only event in Europe that celebrates excellence in construction management.

Kier Construction Scotland’s Stephen Parker reached the final of the schools category as construction manager for Garnock Community Campus and John Gilchrist was a finalist in the offices category as construction manager for the Cumbernauld Community Education Centre campus.

Brian McQuade, managing director of Kier Construction Scotland and north east, said: “Only the very best in the industry reach the final of these awards and we’re so proud that two of our team were recognised at this very special event.

“Awards like these are so important in honouring the talent of individuals within the industry, particularly as the sector strives to combat the skills shortage by encouraging new and diverse talent to consider a career in construction.”

‘Strong’ Scottish performance helps Kier return to profit

Kier image

Kier Group has returned to profit thanks to its continued restructure and a ‘strong’ contribution from Kier Construction Scotland.

Announcing its full-year results for the year to 30 June 2017, the property, residential, construction and services group reported a pre-tax profit of £25.8 million on revenue up 5% to £4.27 billion. The previous year it lost £15m before tax.

Operating profit for the year was up 3% to £146m (2016: £141m) and the order book stands at £9.5bn.

The results were supported by Kier Construction Scotland, which has a turnover in excess of £150m per annum and employs over 200 people from its offices in Glasgow, Aberdeen, Inverness and Newcastle.

The contractor has continued to expand its order book, and provide diverse local employment and training opportunities throughout the country.

Brian McQuade, managing director of Kier Construction Scotland, said: “In Scotland, Kier has secured a strong and steady pipeline of activity through increasing our framework and tender wins. Most recently we have been appointed as a partner on the £160m Aberdeenshire Council Social Housing Improvement Framework and the £125m Aberdeenshire Council Capital Works Framework.

“We have also strengthened our healthcare portfolio with a number of recent wins, including work with NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde at Stobhill Hospital, NHS Highland at Raigmore Hospital in Inverness and we have been appointed principal supply chain partner at Golden Jubilee National Hospital under Frameworks Scotland 2.

“Education remains an important sector for us and we are currently developing the design and build requirements for the new £25m Queen Margaret Academy in Ayr and we are on site at the £43m William McIlvanney Campus in Kilmarnock and at the £35m redevelopment of Marr College in Troon.  In conjunction with our partners, hub South West, we have recently completed the £25m Ayr Academy for South Ayrshire Council and the £36m Garnock Campus for North Ayrshire Council.

Caol Campus Fort William. Image courtesy of Kevin Hunter photography

Kier delivered the Caol Campus in Fort William. Image courtesy of Kevin Hunter photography

Mr McQuade added: “Kier Construction Scotland is also working on an exciting range of heritage projects, restoring some of the country’s most important landmarks for future generations to enjoy. We have just completed the new roof as part of the intricate restoration work that we are carrying out at the world-renowned Mackintosh Building for Glasgow School of Art.  We have also completed the first phase of the Grade A-listed sandstone building off Lauriston Place for Edinburgh College of Art, in time for the new academic year and work is on schedule as we restore of one of Scotland’s oldest and most historic concert halls – the A-listed Aberdeen Music Hall.”

Internationally, the closure of the Caribbean and Hong Kong businesses resulted in non-underlying charges of £86m. But the sale of Mouchel Consulting in October 2016 generated a profit on sale of £40m.

Chief executive Haydn Mursell said: “Our underlying performance for the year was good. Having simplified our portfolio, the group is more focused and able to pursue its growth ambitions in our three core markets; building, infrastructure and housing, which now represent 90% of the group’s revenue and profit. We continue to invest in the business to improve our operational efficiency, providing a robust platform on which to take advantage of the strong long-term fundamentals in these core markets.

“Our Construction and Services order books of £9.5bn, together with our c.£2bn property development and residential pipelines, provide good long-term visibility of our future work. This visibility, coupled with our healthy balance sheet, provides us with confidence of achieving our Vision 2020 strategic targets.”

He added: “We are progressing well with the roll-out of our £70m investment in a new Oracle ERP system with 70% of the group now operating on the new platform. This system provides high quality and timely information, together with improved back office systems and efficiencies.”