This week, we talk exclusively to Ryan Harris, who tells us about the career path that has brought him to his director role for multi-award-winning Hill, and his thoughts about housebuilding as a career option for others.
Hi Ryan, please tell us a little about yourself and Hill.
I am the western regional director at Hill, overseeing large urban regeneration developments. I have worked in the housebuilding industry for the past 18 years, with almost 10 of those spent at Hill. I am now managing the production, commercial and technical activity for the western region which primarily operates across Oxfordshire, Berkshire and Buckinghamshire. One of my region’s flagship developments is Mosaics, the first residential phase to be delivered at the highly anticipated Barton Park project in Oxford. My role is to oversee the delivery of the first 237 properties, which form part of the larger Barton Park community that is set to deliver 885 new homes, alongside a primary school, food store, community hub and a new linear park.
Hill itself is the UK’s third-largest privately owned family-controlled housebuilder and boasts a total pipeline of 3,300 homes across London and the South East of England. As a leading developer in the region, Hill delivers both private sale homes and partnerships with affordable housing providers. Hill’s portfolio is diverse, ranging from landmark mixed-use regeneration schemes and large-scale urban extensions, to bespoke housing in rural communities.
Can you tell us about your career path, from education to training, work experience and previous roles?
My career first started at CITB’s training headquarters in Bircham Newton, Norfolk, enrolling at 16-years-old on a residential course and training as a general construction operative.
Following my graduation from Bircham Newton, I was successful in securing a trainee management position with a housebuilder, which helped kick-start my management career. I was working on site four days a week and attended university one day a week which allowed me to build up both my practical and theoretical knowledge from the get-go. I would strongly encourage anyone looking to gain insight into the industry to follow a similar path. Hill offers a similar programme to the one I was part of, which is dedicated to inspiring the next generation to enrol in a career within the housebuilding industry, while helping to address the sector’s skills shortage. The scheme currently plays host to 85 students, who are gaining invaluable on-the-job experience as site managers, contract surveyors, technical coordinators, estimators and architectural technicians.
After completing the trainee management programme, I was promoted to assistant site manager, working across various sites before moving to an infrastructure group, where I independently managed three developments. This was a real learning curve as I was exposed to the wider decision making process and company procedures, ensuring I was ready to take on my next challenge at Hill. I joined Hill in 2008, rising quickly through the ranks from site manager to regional director, due to the fantastic training and support from the Hill team.
Are there any past projects and/or mentors that have been particularly inspiring?
You never forget your first mentor and I am grateful for the training and investment my first manager afforded me. I am grateful for the time sacrificed, which enabled me to learn the trade and understand the rapid developments within the industry.
Fast-forward 10 years and my development needs had changed and I decided it was the time for a change in direction. I joined Hill which foremost increased my commercial awareness. The trust and motivation from my construction manager and managing director allowed me to flourish in a rapidly expanding business.
In regards to specific projects, our Tidworth project has been the most inspiring so far; not just for me, but for all members of the delivery team and supply chain as the homes were built exclusively for Ministry of Defence personnel and their families. Although not technically challenging, the logistics, sequencing and discipline involved in delivering 322 new homes in 20 months was a significant achievement, at a pace rarely witnessed in today’s modern housing schemes. The team were extremely proud to work on a project that offered us a chance to give back to those who sacrifice so much for our country. It was an honour to work closely with the MoD and be part of a successful project for all stakeholders involved, including the end users.
What is it about your current role that you most enjoy?
I love that my job enables me to work with local authorities and leading social housing providers to deliver joint venture and regeneration projects to areas in need of good quality housing. Mosaics at Barton Park in Oxford is a great example of this. We are delivering inspirational new homes which will transform the area of Oxford by creating a new community. The development in whole will offer 885 new homes and we are delivering the first 237 properties. This will help generate new jobs in the area and help local businesses thrive.
The scheme is being delivered in partnership with Oxford City Council and Grosvenor Britain & Ireland and 40% of all of the new homes on site will be affordable properties managed by Oxford City Council. A lack of new homes in Oxford is putting pressure on local families so investing in developments like Barton Park is vital to helping the city continue to grow and prosper. I’m glad I can be part of this through Hill.
How has working in the housebuilding industry changed since you first came into it?
I’m happy to say I’ve seen a substantial increase in women working in the industry over the last 18 years. Not only are more women entering the industry but they are also operating in more senior positions than before, which is fantastic.
Quality standards have also improved rapidly as customers and homeowners have an increased awareness and higher expectations. I am proud to work for Hill, their philosophy is aligned to my own, focusing on quality and customer satisfaction.
Are there particular roles that others have in the industry which you find especially interesting and admirable?
In my new role as regional director I get to meet professionals at all levels, both within our own business and our partners and competitors too. I have a huge amount of respect for everyone that I’ve met. The industry is facing delivery demands from the government, higher expectations from customers, and a resourcing shortage. All of which are placing pressure on the industry; and yet most individuals I meet show a high level of tenacity which I find admirable.
What’s your advice to those considering or applying for a job in UK housebuilding right now?
The industry is in a position whereby we have a national shortage of resources and skills required to satisfactorily meet the nation’s housing needs. This gap provides a fantastic variety of opportunities to candidates of all skillsets and academic levels to learn a trade or profession. Our trainee management programme allows those with an interest in housebuilding to not only receive on-the-job training but also an opportunity to gain a qualification. Currently 25% of our staff is currently enrolled in or has graduated from the fantastic programme, including some of our senior managers.