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.
The Deeley Group has a long history of delivering high-quality developments across a range of sectors – and we have continued that pattern with a strong start to 2021.
The foundation for these developments can be found in partnerships, something we pride ourselves on at Deeley Group and that continue to be fruitful in providing a stream of varied projects.
We have a trio of projects underway in the retail sector, including two developments in Birmingham.
The new store in Hamstead, Birmingham, is the latest contract we have been awarded under the Lidl contractor framework
We have also built trusted partnerships with organisations such as Ziran Land to deliver a new Costa Coffee drive-thru in Wolverhampton and with LondonMetric to build a new Sofology store in Birmingham.
The benefits of partnerships and building relationships are clear and we have recently embarked on our third development for major supermarket chain Lidl.
It’s important to us that projects we carry out have a enhancing impact on the communities we are working within, and our work in healthcare and education is the perfect platform for this.
Earlier this month we saw work start on a £11.3 million Extra Care Living development in Didcot for Housing 21 – another prime example of partnership working to full effect, as we are now onto our second project with Housing21.
We understand the specific requirements of the operators and their residents, delivering schemes that create lasting value for all stakeholders. As a family business, people and the community are at the heart of everything we do.
Education and Public Sector
Then, in our home city of Coventry, we have started work on transforming a school in the east of the city. We have worked closely with Coventry City Council to deliver this project in time for the new school term.
As well as the development providing clear benefits to the community through new education provision, we have also ensured that local subcontractors are used on the development and all of the on-site subcontractors are based within 30 miles of the site.
We have also worked with Coventry University to enhance research and development capabilities at five of its facilities at the Coventry University Technology Park – which will of course have a positive knock-on effect on the economy in the city and wider region.
Our history as a contractor and a developer shows our ability to assist clients early on with brief and planning. This allows us to build strong relationships from the start of projects and can result in repeat business for the future. Currently 85% of our work has been secured through negotiation or with existing clients.
Collaboration is key and we’re proud that our staff reflect that ethos in their day-to-day work. The work of our design and build team in engaging with clients on a project from the planning stage and communicating information effectively is a great example of that.
Our ability to work across a broad range of sectors has served us well during the pandemic.
In a tough market, we haven’t been a firm that has chased turnover or cut any corners. We have ensured a high standard of development that meets our client’s needs, whatever the sector.
Again, that is an ethos which has served us well for 85 years and will continue to do so long into the future
The company has always been a strong believer in breeding its own workforce through apprenticeships and training and it is a policy which has served the company extremely well through the years and continues to do so.
I should know. I started with the firm in 1988 (when I was, obviously, very young!) straight from school. I had not done as well as I wanted in my A Levels so therefore did not go straight to university but joined Deeley as I wanted to be a quantity surveyor.
I could not have made a better decision. In the intervening years I studied for my ONC in Building Studies at Coventry College and then my HNC at Coventry University before doing a degree in Quantity Surveying at what was then the University of Central England.
I then went on to earn my professional qualifications MRICS and MCIOB to complete my training.
Through all that time I was working at Deeley, gaining hands-on practical experience that, for me, made learning the theory so much more relatable.
I am not alone. Around 25 per cent of our workforce has been taken on through an apprenticeship or trainee programme. We find that it allows us to teach them the “Deeley Way” helping to shape what they learn to not only give them a thorough grounding but to also improve our all-round capability.
Our colleagues also enjoy working with younger people and passing on the skills they have learned while working for us, while apprentices tend to stay longer with an employer than other staff.
Currently 15 per cent of Deeley Group’s employees are in an apprenticeship or undergoing further learning programmes, so it is a trend which continues and impacts positively on every part of the group’s operations.
We currently have trainees on site, in accounts, and in marketing, while several of our senior team have come through the ranks after starting as trainees.
Even last year in the depths of the pandemic we took the bold step to recruit two new management trainees having previously engaged with their school and offering them work experience the year before. Only today, I have had a Teams meeting with Jack and Tom to review their progress – it so encouraging to see their passion to learn and progress through the company and it took me back to 1988!!
February 8 sees the start of National Apprenticeship Week, and while activities will be limited by Covid restrictions, it an important initiative – important for young people to realise what an apprenticeship or traineeship can lead to, and important for companies to tap into the rich vein of potential talent which can serve them well.
By Martin Gallagher, Managing Director, Deeley Construction
There have – just in the last 15 years never mind the previous 85 – been huge advances in the property industry, be that in construction methods, health and safety, procurement or communications. The list is endless.
Yet, while Deeley has embraced all that change and very much been an early adopter of new initiatives, we are still underpinned by the values passed on from my father: integrity, partnership, community, respect and agility.
Those are all very important elements of what has helped the company thrive. There is no question that agility has proved to be vital in our continued success. We cannot simply create a market, but we can follow one, and we can shape one and I think our history shows that we have done that successfully.
In the 1950s and 1960s, for example, we embraced the expansion of the comprehensive school system and constructed three of the major schools in Coventry and continue to work across primary and secondary education.
But in recent years, we have worked on numerous projects for universities as Higher Education has gone through a similar expansion, gaining an insight to customer needs, keeping ahead of trends and constantly developing our expertise.
Presently we are very strong in the construction and creation of care homes and once again we have developed a significant knowledge and understanding of the sector meaning we are very much partners of our clients.
My father became renowned in the late 1930s and 1940s for building the best air raid shelters in Coventry – he certainly didn’t create that market, but he responded to it!
All of those values I mention also come down to people – and I know that the quality of the team we have always had at Deeley, has been a key to our success.
We work in partnership with other firms of all industry disciplines, and, more often than not, they are on-going relationships many of which stretch back decades. That does not happen without people with integrity and ability.
Deeley has always believed in nurturing talent and that has helped us instil these values over decades. Seeing people develop through every level of the business over the years is a record of unending pride.
Martin – the MD of Deeley Construction – started with us as a trainee straight out of education and now leads a major part of the business. Eleanor – our deputy MD of the Deeley Group – used to open the post on a Saturday morning as an eight-year-old (not that she had much of a choice!).
There are countless examples throughout every sphere of our operations, and it is a major factor in our success.
Like all firms in property and construction, we have had our dark periods, but the quality of our people, the agility we have shown along with our reputation and our professional abilities have seen us through.
They are also the reason why we have responded so well during these dreadful times, to keep working, keep our projects on track and keep our customers satisfied.
Without exception, the Deeley team has embraced the enforced changes and reacted magnificently – and I thank every colleague for that.
So, while reaching our 85th anniversary is a milestone and one to celebrate, we look back only to reflect on qualities which have helped us thrive – and to ensure they will continue to drive the Deeley Group to a successful future.
I have been at Deeley for more than half a century and I have never experienced anything similar to what we have all been through in 2020 and what is likely to continue well into 2021.
The success of the Deeley Group over the last 84 years has been built on the high-quality team we have in the business and the great companies and people we work with, and never has that been more evident than this year.
We have, across all our spheres of operation, adapted to the very necessary restrictions placed on us because of the pandemic and that has allowed us to keep delivering and keep driving forward.
That has been true on site and in our offices. Those out on site have ensured that social distancing and other measures have been adhered to while still working on our projects, while many of our office staff seamlessly flipped to working from home.
Those working arrangements changed according to the severity of lockdowns and, as we approach the end of the year, we are nowhere near back to normal working.
The year has seen us work on a massively wide range of projects from private housing to care homes, from university faculties to retail units, and from coffee drive-throughs to advanced technology car-parks.
We have continued to support our local communities – for example the Starley Sportive which we co-host raised almost £10,000 despite not taking place!
I would therefore like to thank everyone – internal staff and external partners – for helping us all get through 2020 in such good shape.
Next year is a big one for us – it’s our 85th anniversary – and for Coventry, with the UK City of Culture starting in May.
However, the main priority is that we all stay safe and healthy so I would like to wish you all a Happy Christmas and a prosperous New Year.
Peter Deeley, Managing Director
Our movements are restricted, our offices are closed – save for a few essential staff for whom working from home is not an option – and all meetings have moved online once more.
We are able to continue work on our construction sites and are, in many ways, in a fortunate position compared to many other industries such as tourism and leisure.
There is, however, no question that it makes things more challenging.
Starting new jobs is incredibly hard as there is so much information that has to be passed on. Then there are factors such as how you induct new staff members and the list goes on and on.
It is like walking through treacle, everything is harder and everything requires more effort.
But we fully understand why the lockdown was re-introduced after the loosening of restrictions brought the much-anticipated second wave and we know we have to slow the spread of the virus and allow the NHS to be able to cope.
However, to then read that the Government are planning a temporary U-turn over Christmas for a period of around five days with multiple households mixing, really does get me quite upset and angry.
That could, according to reports, mean another lockdown of 20 days. The Government are measuring things in terms of lockdown days rather than the cost both in human terms and also damage to the economy – an economy which is already in a highly precarious state.
The explanations seem almost nonchalant – “Oh, we will have another 20 days of lockdown.” It is as if they haven’t assessed the impacts of those five days of fun
We have seen numbers rising in terms of suicide rates and most people will be able to tell you a story of someone they know, or a friend of a friend who has committed suicide this year which is devastating.
The idea that it is worth being locked down for a month for the sake of just five days, just seems absurd.
It also seems rather right wing that the Government is prepared to sacrifice lives, the future of some businesses, many jobs and the health of the economy for an element of society to celebrate Christmas when Eid was cancelled with a day’s notice and Diwali severely restrict.
It doesn’t seem appropriate to say that this one Christian celebration is worth all of this damage – you start to wonder if that is a very Christian thing to do.
The motive just seems to be to placate the population by saying we can celebrate Christmas without explaining the factual consequences. I cannot decide whether the Government feels that the population is incapable of digesting the implications or whether they have not assessed what the implication of Festive fun would be for the nation both economically and for the NHS.
People are working so hard to keep business and families afloat and the idea you can just abandon the rules with no logical and explainable reason is total nonsense, and actually goes totally against the mantra the Government have been preaching as vital for so long.
It smacks totally of populism – but it is populism with a deathly consequence.
By Eleanor Deeley