• Alison Parham

Jack of all trades, Master of……Construction Law and Dispute Resolution

Updated: Feb 11

Andy Inchmore BSc (Hons) MSc MCIArb

When I started my construction career 20 years ago I worked on various building sites as a labourer and was a bit of a ‘jack of all trades, master of none’. I found myself working in landscaping, building swimming pools, renovating outhouses in Southern Spain and ended up scaffolding but I was never satisfied (although the weather in Spain was lovely and I had a great tan). I didn’t have any vocational qualifications and was not encouraged to become qualified. I felt this may hinder my career progression. If I ever found myself out of work, I was concerned I wouldn’t be employable as an ‘older’ person with no real qualifications or significant work experience. I was also thinking about the future. If I ever had children and they wanted to know what daddy did for work I didn’t want the answer to be “I don’t know really, just whatever is going”.

So, at 29 years old I decided I needed to sort my life out. I decided to pursue a professional career, get qualifications and maximise my potential. I wanted to remain in construction as I had worked with great people and been involved in some interesting projects. However, I decided the hard physical graft wasn’t what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. I wanted a new challenge where I would have to apply myself and study hard so I enrolled on a HND course in Quantity Surveying at the University of Greenwich.

Even though I had signed myself up to be a quantity surveyor I didn’t really know what they did. If you type it into google you still get a range of answers. What this implies and what I have since learnt is that there are many branches to what a quantity surveyor is and what they can go on to do. This has encouraged me even more to continue to learn and progress in my career as there are no limits.

I have also learnt since embarking on this journey that although it has to be self-driven to reach your goals and maximise your potential, you will need the support of your friends and family and maybe more importantly, if you are employed, the support of your employer.

When I enrolled on my HND I also began to apply for jobs as a trainee/assistant quantity surveyor to gain work experience. This was a big risk as I knew I would be taking a big salary cut whilst studying but I kept telling myself that: “It will be worth it in the long run”. Fortunately, I managed to find a company based locally who were willing to take me on part-time and allow me to work around my studies. This was invaluable as it gave me the opportunity to embark upon a career change whilst still earning some money to keep the landlord happy. Although it was always an option the thought of having to move back home at nearly 30 years old was not an option I really wanted to take up (sorry mum, no offence!).

I was very proud of myself when I completed my HND, with Commendation I might add, but I knew that this wasn’t going to be enough if I wanted to progress my career further. Although I was happy where I was working, I was always aware of what projects are going on and the potential jobs available but I knew that I still didn’t have the necessary qualifications or experience to be able to command a more prominent role either where I currently worked, and even less so, anywhere else. So, my next stop was to top up my HND to a full BSc Degree and I immediately enrolled to study this at Anglia Ruskin University. I was a little anxious about consuming myself in more debt but I was now committed to the cause and my mantra: “It will all be worth it in the end!”

Two years down the line I completed my degree and was awarded a BSc in Quantity Surveying. Now I was getting somewhere! At this stage I was still working part-time for the same company as an assistant quantity surveyor, which I had been doing for the best part of three years, but it was now time to kick on and start getting some real experience working full time. However, I caught up with my friends from uni one day and many of them were saying: “So, are you going to sign up and do your Masters now?”. This started playing on my mind as I didn’t feel I could do both a Masters and work full-time. I had also had enough of studying having done it for the past four years and fancied a break. I decided against doing a Masters and hoped I could maybe do it sometime down the line. I was also aware that our company had just been awarded a fairly long-term contract working on Crossrail and I wanted to be part of it. Crossrail was and still is one of the biggest and most prestigious construction projects in the UK, if not globally, and an opportunity to work on such a project doesn’t come around every day. Thankfully I was given the opportunity to work full-time on the project as part of our team.

I did this for two years but our contract was coming to an end and it was at this time I was feeling that I wanted to now go on and do more. The company I worked for was very specialised in what they did and although I had learnt a lot, having seen the variety of skills and trades specialisms required on such a project as Crossrail, there was so much more out there to learn. I decide to move on and joined a multi-disciplined construction company. I found myself working on multiple projects, remaining predominantly within the rail sector. However, things just didn’t feel right at this company and I wasn’t getting the support that I felt I needed to progress in the direction I wanted to. By chance one day I received a phone call from a recruitment consultant who mentioned a few opportunities that were available and was calling to see if I was interested. I hadn’t been in my current position that long but I thought there would be no harm in finding out more.

I went for an interview with GVE Commercial Solutions where I met with the directors and one of the long-standing quantity surveyors, Luke. I was advised that Luke was in the meeting as they were looking to progress his career up through the company as a reward for his efforts. This simple act immediately resonated with me that this was a company who I could grow with and they would support me through it. I was offered a role at GVE and I didn’t hesitate to accept. Not long after joining the directors asked me about my career and training objectives. Now was the time and opportunity to consider doing my Masters. Being fresh into the company I wasn’t sure what response I would get. I honestly expected to be told to explore something a little less ambitious or long term, but was pleasantly surprised to be told to look into it and come back with some proposals. Four years later I sit here writing this with a Masters Degree in Construction Law and Dispute Resolution and as a full Member of the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators. GVE have supported me both personally and financially through my studies as well as providing me with opportunities to work on a variety of projects during this time to supplement my learning. I feel I have learnt more in the past four years than I did in the previous 15 (without giving my age away!) and I am so grateful for this.

I am immensely proud of my achievements as are my employer but for me, the path doesn’t end here. I still want to progress further. From all the things I have learnt, the one thing that sticks is that you will never stop learning. This industry is forever evolving and you cannot afford to sit still and not evolve with it. With the right determination and support there is nothing to stop you achieving your goals.

I’m now also looking forward to the day when my twin boys say: “Daddy, what do you do for work?” “Well boys, I’m glad you asked…… let me tell you a story!”

88 views0 comments