We speak to Andrew Brooks, managing director of Bewley Homes, to learn about his career path and to discover his thoughts about what the housebuilding industry can offer jobseekers of all backgrounds today.
Please talk us through your career to date.
I started my working career as an assistant site agent and fully embraced the exciting world of construction, heavy machinery and engineering. It gave me a huge sense of accomplishment to complete a property to a high standard and immense pride when I handed over the keys to someone’s new home.
From assistant site agent, I progressed to a site agent with the extra responsibility of being completely in charge of the site and wholly responsible delivering high-quality units on time, pulling together all the multiple disciplines and truly understanding the relationship between construction and sales – and producing a product that was well presented and ultimately highly saleable.
No two days were the same. There were always different challenges requiring organisation and management skills in an environment which was extremely dangerous and where the welfare, health and safety of everyone on site, was paramount.
From site agency, I progressed to working as an assistant land buyer where I learned the skills of negotiation and problem solving, and about the complex planning system. I then progressed to land director and, from there, to managing director.
What sort of attributes would someone considering a career in housebuilding have to have?
The industry has never offered opportunities to people who do not have a certain element of enthusiasm behind them. There has to be a keenness to learn – to work your way up, a willingness to work hard, empathy with the environment, pride in what you accomplish and the ambition to succeed – after all, when you construct a building, it becomes a fundamental footprint which will stand the test of time for generations. This alone provides great job satisfaction. However, it is an industry which works under immense pressure, requiring teamwork to deliver results.
What benefits does a career in housebuilding offer?
Not only is the industry facing one of the most severe personnel crises in a generation but, with mounting pressure to deliver new homes, someone entering the industry can be reassured they have a job for life.
It is diverse enough to offer the opportunity to undertake a variety of tasks and to progress. A building site is a great university of life which will train you for a successful career. What’s more, as an apprentice you can earn money whilst you train, alleviating any concern of debt which so often comes with an university education.
What sort of roles are available and/or in demand?
In my opinion, there currently isn’t a single role within the industry that isn’t in demand. The lack of people entering the trade is of constant concern to the industry and I would appeal to anyone who is interested in entering the industry not to be swayed by social preconceptions – training on the job and working your way up is a great way to learn. I engage on a daily basis with our subcontractors – these are large companies who have all come ‘through the tools’ and have worked on site themselves. It was their ambition which took them from bricklayer to foreman and from foreman to running their own company, now employing thousands of people.
The apprentices at Bewley Homes are full of enthusiasm for the job they have in hand. Importantly, only two years ago, they were in a dilemma, talking to their parents about what to do coming out of school and depressed about limited job prospects. Today, they are full of enthusiasm, with the training required for a prosperous career and no debt. Indeed, they are in a position to look at getting onto the housing ladder themselves.
What advice would you give those wanting to enter a career in housebuilding?
The housebuilding industry is both dynamic and far-reaching. It encompasses a vast number of attributes and requires a diverse range of skills – from the site-based teams, all the way through to finance, the technical element of surveying, technical managers, architects, land buying and the fast-paced world of sales, there is something for everyone.
It has always been my belief that one of the greatest shortcomings of our industry is the failure to tap into school leavers and university students, many of whom leave full-time education in a quandary about what career path to follow.
I would encourage anyone considering a career in housebuilding or thinking about entering an apprenticeship scheme to speak to any housebuilder in the country – so many are looking for hungry young talent and so many want to invest in youth and the future of the industry.