This week, we have an exclusive Q&A session with Chris Metcalf and learn more about his role for a company providing homes for a particular sector of buyers, and the life and career path that has taken him to his senior position.
Please tell us a little about yourself and Step Forward.
I am the co-founder of Step Forward Homes. The company was set up in 2016 to provide affordable homes for current serving and ex-military personnel as well as blue-light emergency workers.
We provide both Shared Ownership properties and affordable rental properties that are delivered from national housebuilders such as Redrow, Bellway and Barratt Homes. In 2017 Step Forward Homes delivered 100 properties across the North West and plans to increase this significantly over the next three years, aiming to complete on 3,000 units before 2021.
My role is to oversee the delivery and sales of our units across the North West. This role has been extremely rewarding seeing the most deserving individuals and families have the opportunity to move into there dream home.
Can you tell us about your career path, from education to training, work experience and previous roles?
Leaving school at the age of 13 to pursue a career in acting and landing the leading role in BBC Children’s drama Grange Hill was not your usual path into the property market. But this gave me the platform and finance to be able me to purchase my first buy-to-let property at the age of 18. This is where my love for all things property began.
In 2007 I began working alongside my father’s property investment company based in the North West, where I began my real-life education in property and where I learnt a number of valuable lessons in operating a property business within a recession. Following the tough few years we had experienced, I decided to pursue another family passion – boxing – where I trained and had two professional bouts, one of which was featured live on Sky Sports in March 2013.
Following this I realised that nothing I would experience in business and property would be as hard as the eight weeks training and the mental and physical torture of preparing for a professional boxing bout. These experiences both in business and boxing was really what helped me build the foundations and resilience to help build and develop a successful business.
And in 2014 both myself and my father dusted ourselves down and decided it was time for us to start Step Forward Homes, a property company that would deliver property to ex-Armed Forces personnel making the transition from military life to civilian life. A cause very close to my father’s heart – he served in the King’s Regiment and in Northern Ireland on two occasions, which led to us wanting to start a business that helped where we could within this sector.
What is it that got you interested in the housebuilding sector?
From an early age property and property development has always been something that I have shown a huge amount of interest in. But I feel that my passion has really grown since delivering homes to hugely deserving individuals and families. For me there is nothing better than going down to one of our properties on the day that one of our tenants is moving in and handing over the keys to their brand new home.
I believe that more and more private companies can work to help solve these social problems that the UK are currently experiencing within the housing market.
Are there any past projects and/or mentors that have been particularly inspiring?
At Step Forward Homes I’m surrounded by inspiration and mentors, two of whom actually work for Step Forward. Stephen Boardman MBE, our chairman, was the only Parachute Regiment officer to serve in all four tours of Afghanistan and carried out his last tour at the age of 55. He was awarded his MBE for his work negotiating with the Taliban.
Andy Reid also works with us at Step Forward as an ambassador. Serving in the 3rd Battalion The Yorkshire Regiment, Andy had only 10 days left in the Middle East when he stood on an improvised explosive device (IED). His injuries were such that he lost both legs, one above the knee, his right arm and the index finger on his left hand. Needless to say they are both a huge inspiration to the team on a daily basis.
What is it about your role that you find most satisfying?
In my current role I deal with a variety of different individuals from the CEOs of housing companies to ex-military and emergency workers who are homeless and moving into one of our homes. It is hugely rewarding as well as humbling to realise that any one of us can fall on difficult times and be faced with the reality of becoming homeless.
What is sobering is the fact that these individuals have chosen to serve our country and yet still find themselves with huge difficulty in finding themselves a home.
In terms of job satisfaction and career potential, what do you think housebuilding offers that other sectors don’t?
Within the housebuilding sector there a huge number of diverse career opportunities but there is also a huge shortfall in skilled labour. The skilled labour roles currently being promoted by developers are highly paid and are a great opportunity for bricklayers, joiners and plumbers to progress into managing their own teams and site management roles.
Due to a huge reduction in the amount of school leavers deciding to go to college to gain a qualification in a trade, there is huge demand for these roles with competitive packages being offered to incentivise candidates by national housebuilders.
What’s your advice to those considering or applying for a job in UK housebuilding right now?
England currently needs to build over 300,000 homes per year to satisfy the housing shortage so the industry has never been more abundant with opportunity and with this comes the genuine opportunity for job promotions and career progression.
My advice would be to start from the bottom and really understand the industry and the direction that you would like to build your career. Having a genuine understanding of everyone’s role within a business is a huge benefit when you come to progress within your sector.
Many of the housebuilders we are working with offer fantastic apprenticeship schemes to help you make that first step into your new career in housebuilding.