Building Buddies: John Dillon on the David Wilson Homes initiative

October 12, 2018 / Keith Osborne
Building Buddies: John Dillon on the David Wilson Homes initiative

It is widely recognised that the construction industry needs to try harder to give a positive impression of the exciting potential of working in it, and the range of skills and personal qualities it needs. Here, John Dillon, managing director for David Wilson Homes South Midlands, talks about the aims of the housebuilder’s school awards scheme, Building Buddies.

The Building Buddies scheme has just been launched – how did it come about?

We decided to launch the Building Buddies Award because we wanted to find new ways to engage schoolchildren in the exciting and versatile construction industry. By setting them four different tasks throughout the academic year, we hope to spark their creativity and encourage them to think like a construction worker would. With the added bonus of a site visit and awards for the best ideas, we are excited to be working closely with local schools and look forward to seeing the children’s responses to the project.

Our main objectives for the award are: to teach children about how building sites are operated and the significance of site safety; to encourage children to consider a career in construction; and to demonstrate to children there are many job roles involved in housebuilding as well as construction, such as technical, land and sales.

Are you expecting some parts of the programme to be more popular than others?

As with every project we do, we recognise that getting pupils to visit our developments provides a valuable and memorable experience. The final quarter of the project involves a lesson on site safety which we feel will be well received as this offers something unique and fascinating for the pupils.

On the same note we hope that the competitions within the award will be interesting to the schools and offer a bit of something for everyone.

Is this a national scheme or focused on particular regions?

The scheme has been launched across a number of divisions within Barratt Developments across the UK. As a division, we will be focusing this year’s awards in Cambridgeshire and Bedfordshire with a view to grow this in the coming years.

Is it open to all primary schools, or are there particular ones it is aimed at?

The Building Buddies Award will be run in local primary schools close to selected developments for the time being. There will be the potential for applications from schools further afield wishing to become part of the scheme later on.

What sort of take up have you received to date?

We have received a fantastic reaction from the primary schools taking part in the scheme and the teachers seem really keen for pupils to expand their knowledge. There are a lot of creative elements to the project which is always of interest to schools.

As many of our team members will be involved in bringing the scheme to life, we have also had some great feedback from our employees on the award. We can’t wait to get stuck in!

Are there cases where working with schools has directly brought youngsters on board?

We obviously can’t track individual children’s career paths but we’d like to think that over the years community engagement projects have inspired young people to join the industry – whether that’s as an apprentice or later in life.

Is engaging schools onsite and offsite growing in importance and what can be done to get the industry more involved?

This has always been hugely important to us as a leading developer but we recognise that now more than ever it’s vital that youngsters are being made aware of the wide variety of roles available within the construction industry to help secure the workforce of the future. With schemes like the Building Buddies Award, it’s another step towards engaging younger people in the sector and raising awareness that this is a viable career choice.


Case study: Langford Village Academy

Jennifer of David Wilson Homes with pupils of Langford Village Academy

David Wilson Homes’ sales adviser Jennifer with pupils of Langford Village Academy

Pupils from Year 3 and Year 4 at Langford Village Academy in Biggleswade, Bedfordshire are participating in the scheme and have recently started their first task, naming a development and designing a logo for it.

Jason Hearn, sales director at David Wilson Homes South Midlands, said: “We’re looking forward to seeing the creativity of the children grow with each design and literature task, whilst giving them an understanding of the construction process at our nearby Kingsley Manor development.”

Joy Mead, Key Stage Two leader and teacher at the school, said: “We are very grateful to David Wilson Homes for this opportunity for our children to be involved in the local housing development through the Building Buddies Award Scheme. The children were very excited to receive their booklets and we’re looking forward to learning more about the whole process of homebuilding as the project progresses.”

Case study: St Gabriel’s 

Danica of David Wilson Homes with pupils of St Gabriel's Junior SchoolIn preparation for their first task of the programme, the participating Year 6 pupils at St Gabriel’s, close to the landmark Newbury Racecourse development, have now been presented with their workbooks by sales office manager Danica.

Rob Allen, sales director at David Wilson Homes Southern, said: “We’re thrilled to be working with St Gabriel’s throughout the academic year and we hope the pupils enjoy being amongst the first participants in this exciting project. We’re looking forward to seeing the creativity of the children grow with each design and literature task, whilst giving them an understanding of the construction process.”

Peter Dove, head of the junior school at St Gabriel’s, commented: “As a school, we put a high value on STEM careers and this scheme is a really effective way to engage our pupils. They have already started talking about ideas for a name and logo for their first project and I look forward to seeing the results take shape.”

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