Jack McQuillan has been working for Deeley Construction for two years, starting with the firm at the age of 16.
In recent months Jack has completed work on his first scheme at Tiverton Road, a scheme of 39 affordable homes for Stonewater.
In our latest blog, he reflects on his development during the project and his first two years as a trainee site manager.
I can trace my time back with Deeley Construction to a brief work experience placement I did in school. Undertaking that work placement was one of the best decisions I have made.
While my family have always been involved and worked in construction, it wasn’t until I completed my placement at Deeley that I realised the variety of roles involved in a construction, development or property business.
From that week of experience, I worked with near enough every department in the firm. This included spending days on site, understanding the financial processes with the accounts team and getting a chance to speak with the management team too.
I felt after that placement I had a really good understanding of the company, so when the opportunity arose to join the business as a management trainee I jumped at the chance.
The management trainee role saw me given more chance to experience parts of the business, alongside my fellow trainee Tom Jeffrey. The office work was insightful, but for me it was the work on-site which appealed the most.
That led me to supporting Eamonn Gorman, site manager, on the Tiverton Road development for site manager. I had very limited experience of being on a construction site at this time, so to be supporting a multi-million-pound development at the age of 17 was a great chance to learn.
That’s where Deeley has really helped me to develop at such a quick pace. Over the course of the 18 months on-site at Tiverton Road, I improved in all aspects of work. I was given key tasks critical to the delivery of the project and it was my responsibility to ensure I had full knowledge of the job.
Like every job, there were hurdles to overcome and challenges to work through. The site team had to work hard and adapt, and it was interesting for me to see how important adaptability can be on site.
One of the big takeaways for me from that first project was the development of my people skills. You meet lots of different people in this business, people from different walks of life – and the way you deal with, for example, clients and the team on site is completely different.
I’ve now moved onto the Ernesford Grange & Riverbank Academy project, which is a completely different job. It’s a live-site with the school still open and we’re working with traditional steel frame rather than offsite manufactured timber frame houses.
However, the principles are still the same – it all comes down to communications and understanding how to work with and speak to different people.
Away from site, Deeley is giving myself and Tom plenty of opportunity to develop and gain important qualifications too.
We are studying at Rugby College and started out on a Level 3 course. Because of what we had been learning on the job and the experience we had, the tutors pushed us an academic year ahead.
Ahead of assessments, I’ve been able to compare my site management experience with Tom’s as a quantity surveyor. We’re now completing a HNC in Construction and the Built Environment and also studying for the HND.
To make sure we are getting the best results we can in our assessments, time management is crucial. It’s all about finding that balance, but it’s something I’ve took to and that time management skill is useful back on-site too.
I think I’m continuing to improve and develop on site, I’m still only 18 and it’s not common for people my age to be carrying out some of the roles I do.
We are a real family here at Deeley, you can see how far some of the trainees in the firm have gone and I’m hoping to go as high as I can.
For young people in schools and colleges, construction definitely needs to be better promoted as an industry to pursue a career in.
I was lucky that my career advisor pointed me in the direction of Deeley, due to the school’s links with the business.
If we can encourage more young people to come into construction that can only be a good thing for the industry. I’m only in the formative years of my career, but these first two years have been brilliant and I’m looking forward to continuing my development with the business.
I’ve always been passionate about the built environment and particularly enjoy the business aspects of property, so when the opening came up to join the Deeley Group as a graduate I knew it was a great opportunity to make my mark in the industry.
I completed a Business and Economics undergraduate degree at a business school in London and then a postgraduate degree in International Real Estate at Bartlett School, UCL.
Ahead of coming to London, I had actually considered studying architecture. But I think I wanted to do something more entrepreneurial, so taking the development route into property seemed perfect for me.
After graduation, you spend days searching for graduate positions online and sifting through what might be the right fit.
The job description for the position at Deeley jumped off the page. I knew straight away that I would get to build broad experience in the role and it wouldn’t be so ‘limited’ as other positions.
While some graduate roles see you focused primarily on land search or valuations, the position at Deeley encompassed quantity surveying, urban planning, construction, finance, marketing, project management and even site visits, Covid permitting!
I’m now five months in to my Deeley career and I already feel like I’m developing a well-rounded skill set.
Real estate development is a complex, lengthy and risky process and to be successful it’s crucial to have an understanding of the whole process and that is what I’m looking to build in these first two years.
While residential is my main interest, I get the chance to be involved in large scale commercial, retail, healthcare and affordable living projects.
With the Deeley Group being an SME, I’m also presented with the chance to learn off individuals with vast industry experience.
On a regular day sitting in the office with development manager Dean Weldon and joint managing director Eleanor Deeley, you learn a lot.
There aren’t many graduates out there that get the chance to learn directly from someone who has achieved as much as Eleanor has – whether that be on how to conduct yourself, or tips and tricks on how to tackle certain issues.
Being able to work closely with estimators, architects, site managers and engineers has been very valuable and I’m thankful for their support and time they take to explain whenever needed.
Their experience has given me a broader understanding of what clients want and how we can support them to achieve their goals.
I’m keen to help out wherever I can in the business and looking forward to soon leading on smaller projects of my own. I’ve definitely got the property bug!
Some days I spend hours searching for land, finding opportunities, and identifying villages which might be primed for development.
The next step will be to get my professional RICS accreditation, which I have now enrolled in, and ticking off the various proficiencies to achieve that.
Property is still a people business and building close connections with people is important. I’ve been attending several networking events to help build up my contact list.
I’ve had a lot of opportunities to put what I have learned in my university studies into practice.
I’m really enjoying my time here, I enjoy coming into the office every day and working with my colleagues to overcome different challenges.
I feel like Deeley is the perfect place to learn and start a career in property.
Clearly, to assign the changes in our shopping habit purely to Covid, would be disingenuous.
Significant change in the world of retail was underway long before we first heard of the emergence of the virus, but, if nothing more, it has accelerated a trend that was emerging strongly.
The decline of the High Street has run in parallel with the rise of out of town shopping. There are a number of factors for that.
Firstly, as inflationary pressures continue to grow and household incomes are squeezed, people tend to spend a higher proportion of their income on the essentials, and less on leisure shopping.
Out of town developments cater more for that sort of retail with a high presence of food, carpets, furniture, technology and DIY.
City centre retails needs a number of things to happen in terms of planning and an overhaul of the rating system for it to revitalise and be lifted from the doldrums.
There needs to be a fresh approach on planning to encourage more change of use to residential and increase footfall. It needs to be far more flexible if we are to see real change, and that is what is needed.
Locally, for example, there is a plan in Leamington – a town which to an extent bucks this trend – to convert a former M&S store into offices and potentially bring more than 200 workers into the town centre. That will be a pattern across the country.
We are almost getting to a stage where town centre retail value has dropped to a point – sometimes by 60-70 per cent – to enable that regeneration to happen.
The attitude has to change from being one of the institutional investor who wants 25 years rent from a large anchor store to a more active management which drives more place-making and shows an increased entrepreneurial and flexible approach.
You find that that happening in parts of London and, locally, with FarGo Village in Coventry – a more vibrant and changing scene. Social patterns are changing and retail has to keep pace. Young people don’t always want to own a car and go to a department store, but they want to drink good coffee, practice yoga, be vegan and play crazy golf.
There is a constant search for the next experience, which is why pop-ups do so well, and why there are now specialist agencies advising investors and large institutional funders in how they can adjust to meet the trends.
That means we may well end up with a model that has two very distinct ends. The one is almost wholly leisure and experiential, while the other – mostly out of town – is very essential and efficient.
We have done a great deal of work in the latter end of the market and have recently built Sofology and Lidl stores in Birmingham. Quite often now, a food store is the anchor of a wider development which contains those essentials, and those larger units with car parking will be more appealing to those who remain Covid cautious.
We have a track record in creating out-of-town stores across the country and we are expecting that more conversion work will come through the pipeline
The cost of that is always quite high so value levels still have to fall to make it work economically, but that is starting to happen. The return the office, which appears to be accelerating, will help the High Street leisure businesses.
There will be further twists and turns in all areas of our lives as we emerge further from the last two years, but there is increasing clarity around the future of retail and we believe, as a business, we are well placed to serve both ends of the new market.
Eleanor Deeley, joint managing director
A Midlands developer has completed work to create a new drive-thru Costa in Wolverhampton and the coffee restaurant is now open for business.
Deeley Group, which is headquartered in Coventry, has delivered the new coffee restaurant on the Birmingham New Road and Spring Road junction.
The land was acquired from the neighbouring Forty Four Club which has invested the proceeds of the land sale into the club and its facilities.
Deeley Properties worked in partnership with Ziran Land to bring forward the scheme and Deeley Construction, another division of the Deeley Group, completed the £1.6 million seven month, development.
The drive-thru is on one of the primary routes between Wolverhampton and Birmingham and has created five full-time and 12 part-time jobs. A 15-year lease has been signed by Costa for the new unit.
Four of the UK’s most powerful electric vehicle charging stations have been installed on the site. The first of their kind in the UK, the chargers have been installed by Osprey Charging Network and each provides power of up to 150kW, meaning they are future-proofed for the next generation of electric vehicle technology.
Andrew Brazier, development consultant to Deeley Properties, said: “The new Costa drive-thru is already proving popular with people in the local area and those travelling between Wolverhampton and Birmingham.
“This has been a great example of the flexibility and versatility of the Deeley Group and how our expertise across a range of areas enables us the company to deliver an end-to-end service on a development.
“The development has already had a positive impact on the community with investment in the Forty Four Club and new jobs created at the Costa.
“Roadside retail is a sector that continues to thrive and Costa signing a 15 year lease on this site is evidence of the sector’s strength.”
John Liggins, Managing Director at Ziran Land, added: “Finding this high profile site and bringing it forward for development has been challenging due to its brownfield status within a former mining area. But the team has delivered a development which is a magnificent aspect onto the Birmingham New Road”.
Patrick Sherriff, Property Director for Osprey Charging Network, said: “With more electric vehicles registered in September and October this year than diesel vehicles, it’s natural that brilliant roadside locations such as this will now host high-power charging stations. Osprey are delighted that the first of over 30 charging hubs in development will serve both the local and en-route electric vehicle drivers of the Midlands.”
Holt Commercial acted in the investment sale for the completed property to Sheffield Mutual Friendly Society. Wade and Partners acted on behalf of the investor.
PICTURE CAPTION: From left to right – John Liggins, Patrick Sherriff and Andrew Brazier.
The Midlands developer, which is headquartered in Coventry, has achieved Carbon Neutral status for its reporting period of May 2020 – April 2021 and has been working in partnership with industry experts Carbon Footprint Ltd to put measures in place to achieve net zero by 2036.
The family-owned construction and development firm is now in the second year of measuring its carbon footprint.
From May 2020 to April 2021, the firm produced 12.1 tonnes of CO2 per £1 million spent and offset the CO2 produced by donating to a wind project in India.
The construction and built environment sector is one of the larger producers of emissions, but Deeley Group will be using targets supported by scientific research to drive down its emissions.
Deeley Group has already introduced sustainable measures at its headquarters as part of its commitment, including the installation of EV charging points, solar panels, rain water harvesting measures and PIR lighting.
As part of Deeley’s roadmap to net zero, created in partnership with Carbon Footprint Limited, it will be implementing a host of measures over the coming years.
This will include introducing electric vehicles across its fleet, installing LED lighting at head office, work to Future Homes standards and providing incentives for staff to use greener transport methods.
The UK Government has launched its Net Zero Carbon Procurement policy recently and this requires firms tendering to government and related bodies to annual measure their carbon footprint and reach net zero carbon by 2050.
Deeley Group is aiming to reach this target 14 years earlier and will publish its progress annually.
Eleanor Deeley, deputy managing director at the Deeley Group, said: “With our targets we will be looking to go above and beyond the latest definition of net zero and will be working in partnership with Carbon Footprint Ltd to reach our objectives.
“While we continue to work toward net zero carbon status, we will continue to offset our carbon to ensure we are having a positive impact as soon as possible on the environment during the process.
“It’s important that businesses, regardless of their size, act now and take vital measures to protect the future of our planet.
“We will be working closely with our clients to ensure that sustainable practice is being followed at all of our developments and contributing to our ultimate target of being net zero carbon by the time the company celebrates its 100th year.
“The target date of 2036 is ambitious but it is a challenge we are ready to meet.”
Dr Wendy Buckley, co-founder of Carbon Footprint Ltd, added: “I’m delighted to see Deeley – as a responsible construction business – taking leading steps to achieve net zero carbon emissions way ahead of the UK’s target date of 2050. An example that I hope many other businesses in this sector will take note of and follow.”
Over 30 years ago, our Senior Quantity Surveyor Alison DuBock began a career in construction as a trainee, fresh out of uni. At first, Alison thought an industry ‘dominated by men’ would be a challenge, but it is a career path pursued nonetheless, even with her brother telling her that it is no career for a female. This was the eighties, after all, and construction has always changed with the times.
When thinking of a man’s industry, construction might be your first guess. The industry reputation has preceded it in various media tropes on our screens for decades, including in the Tom Hardy film Locke, and as Tim ‘The Tool Man’ Taylor in sitcom Home Improvement, which both present construction sites as male spaces heavily featuring common male stereotypes, with no girls to be seen.
If we are to mention stereotypes though, front-line work on building sites may not be seen as the most glamourous place for the more feminine lady, and besides the discussion of possibly introducing a hot pink high-vis jacket, stereotypes will be left out of this blog.
In 2021, women are as much a part of construction as men. At Deeley Group, we have female designers (architectural and structural), quantity surveyors, buyers, site managers, site engineers, and trainees, to name but a few. Although the gender gap regarding on-site trades has shortened in recent years, it is closing nonetheless; there is no reason a woman can’t be a bricklayer! is what Alison should’ve told her brother back in the day.
To combat pre-conceptions of women in construction, we have been holding talks in schools and FE colleges about the topic, exploring how enjoying making things in GCSE Technology classes is enough experience to start taking steps towards one day being a part of the construction of a skyscraper, and that girls should not be scared or intimidated by what’s believed to be the ‘male culture’ on sites, as there are now vast amounts of rules and regulations to enforce respect for everyone.
Construction is grassroot, by explaining that we are not a ‘dirty industry’ as blockbuster films would like to refer to us as, and showing that it can be attractive, we at Deeley are trying to improve notions in future generations. Alison has been inspiring young girls to pursue a career in our industry for some time now, giving lectures to school-aged kids, promoting traineeships to soon-to-be school leavers and telling them facts such as how construction changes everyday, that no matter which role you acquire no two days are the same and that pride is a large factor in our line of work; when you see a development you had a hand in coming together is what makes her feel immensely proud, and then being able to drive by a development years later and saying ‘that there is my building’ is the cherry on top.
Of course, I had to ask if she had a specific building in mind when referring to this, and she mentions the first building she worked on, the old AXA Assurance tower in Coventry city centre, a centrepiece for the town in which she put together the golden carpet walling wrapped around it (a first for the city), which is still in use today, over 3 decades later, as student accommodation.
Alison’s advice for girls considering possibly getting into the industry: confidence is key, give as good as you get, but on a respectful level. It is an endearing industry, as all you’ll mainly need to join is maths and English skills, but the most important skill you can have is common sense. Hollywood should make a film about that.
It’s been a whirlwind since joining Deeley Construction under two years ago and it’s safe to say I have learnt a lot in a short space of time.
Prior to setting out on a career in construction I worked in video production, but moving industries is one of the best decisions I have made – and there are two people I can thank for that decision, my sister and Chris Newman, a contracts manager here at the firm.
It was my sister who first encouraged me to look at construction and then Chris who pushed for me to join up with Deeley Construction and undertake further training and qualifications.
After a month working as an assistant on a housing development, I moved onto managing a refurbishment project at University of Warwick. I was the only site manager on that project and again I can thank Chris for speaking to the directors and stating that he thought I already had the ability to manage the job.
Since then, I have worked on multiple other projects, most notably the Aviator House mixed-use development at Haddenham and now, alongside the same team, we are starting work on an Extra Care development at Didcot.
At Didcot I have more formal responsibilities again and it will be another important step in my development.
When I was at school, and I think to some extent this is still true today, there wasn’t much information shared about construction and the vast range of opportunities available within the industry.
There are so many branches on the construction tree, that simply aren’t known to young people.
I’ve had the experience of working in another industry and it feels a lot more secure and stable with construction. Over the last 12 months the industry has continued to work through the pandemic and has proved crucial to the economy.
I like the comradery of working in the industry – you’re regularly working with people from different walks of life and it has great social benefits.
There is a great sense of pride when you see a project come through after a long build process.
My digital background and keen attention to detail have been valuable transferrable skills from my previous career. It’s important to me that a job is completed to the highest possible standard, whilst understanding the benefit of implementing technology into my day-to-day role to increase efficiency.
Deeley Construction has been a great support and invested a lot of time and resource into my development. They know better than most the benefits of investing in trainees, with managing director Martin Gallagher and construction director Steve Turner both coming through the trainee pathway.
I’m on the verge of completing my two-year HSC qualification and then from October will be studying BSc Construction Management at Birmingham City University – all of this has been funded by the company.
My focus is the continued development of my skills and knowledge, whilst taking on new challenges and guidance from people like Chris Newman to become a well-rounded and experienced site manager for the firm.