A career for life: building diversity in construction

A career for life: building diversity in construction

“We are supporting International Men’s Day – a worldwide campaign to recognise inspirational male role models and increase men’s health awareness.

A key part of the success of SustainAbilities is our people: their passion, commitment and drive to go that little bit further. During our blog this week I have the privilege of sharing with you the stories of some of these extraordinary people. I hope they inspire you, as they have me.”

Tim Haywood – Group Finance Director & Head of Sustainability Interserve plc

Interview with Alex Follows

With career in Construction in his blood, both of Alex’s parents work in the industry, you could say it was a natural step for him to follow. But with the industry changing Alex is passionate about opening the doors for more young people, and promoting construction as an exciting career opportunity.

What have you been doing to promote the Construction industry?

I have been involved in several schemes such as UK Contractors Group’s (UKCG) Born To Build campaign, Open Doors Weekends and talks to local young people from colleges. My main involvement has been the UKCG Born to Build Campaign, which brought together young professionals who work in the industry. The aim was fight misconceptions associated with construction by blogging, sharing our experiences and answering questions.

I feel very strongly about promoting the industry, so being able to shout about how good my experience has been was fantastic.

That’s amazing, what happens next?

From this I’m looking to go bigger and better. I am planning to blog extensively about the construction project I’m currently working on to give people an insight into the construction industry. I’m also trying to inspire young professionals into the industry through Open Doors Weekends, local college visits and other Construction schemes such as Considerate Constructors and Ivor Good Site. We are currently arranging a construction week with children in hospitals across the Leicestershire NHS Trusts. This will involve doing a variety of tasks throughout the week, which will engage and inspire them.

You’ve had a really successful career so far (Alex was nominated for UKCG ‘Apprentice of the Year’ in 2014), have you had to overcome any challenges along the way?

My biggest challenge has been stepping up and getting myself out there. Overcoming confidence issues has been a major achievement for me. Looking back to when I first started at Interserve, I couldn’t have done any of the things that I do now so easily.

Another big challenge has been becoming a mentor to a new apprentice. Teaching how and why we do everything has been difficult, but really rewarding. It’s shown me how far I’ve come since I began with Interserve.

Have you had any embarrassing moments?

The only thing I could mention would be splitting my trousers as I went into a meeting with some senior managers – it definitely broke the ice!

Who has inspired you?

My mentor and manager Chris Hall has been a huge inspiration. As soon as I joined Interserve I was immediately sucked in by his enthusiasm for construction. Seeing somebody who has been in the industry for almost 20 years and still has the same excitement, commitment and enthusiasm for the job and the industry really inspired me. It made me think I want to still be that enthused and excited when I’ve been in the industry for that long – it’s shown me that this is a career for life.

What change would you love to see in Construction?

I really want to see the diversity with construction grow and expand. So far the expansion has been a slow process, but I’m excited to see lots of new people from differing backgrounds join the industry.

Also, the introduction of Building Information Modelling (BIM) excites me. I really want to see it being used to its full potential – being able to build a project in cyberspace, find all the mistakes and fix them before a shovel has touched the ground is a really cool process. I’d also love to see sustainable building ideas become the industry norm.

What would you say to young people looking to join the industry?

Doing a job that you love is the best feeling in the world. I believe there is enough opportunity and diversity within the industry to appeal to a real cross-section of society.

To hear from more inspirational male role models, read the blog posts below:

”Holding the door open’ for the next generation with autism’, by Arran Linton-Smith
‘Making a difference to the ‘one’’, by Tony Sanders


Alex Follows

Alex Follows is an Assistant Design Manager at Interserve.