It’s never too late to build your dream career

By Patrick MacKenzie, assistant site manager with Kier Regional Building Scotland

I played a lot of sports as a child and like many boys, I dreamed of being some sort of sportsman when I grew up. The reality of this set in as I got older and, not being particularly academic, when the opportunity to leave school and train as a chef came along, I took it.

I wasn’t offered much in the way of career advice when I was in secondary school, I recall having one meeting with a careers advisor and the suggestions put forward didn’t appeal to me. At that point in time I was really keen to travel, so training as a chef seemed like a good choice and would allow me to see different parts of the world while earning a living.

After finishing my training, I spent the next 15 years travelling around Europe, working in restaurants and hotels in Spain, Germany, the Channel Islands and Ireland. I absolutely loved it.

It was when my wife and I decided to start a family, I knew it was time to change careers. I spent the next three years working in the housing department of a local authority, then became a logistics manager at Amazon, before relocating from Fife to the Highlands and securing the role of client liaison officer with Kier.

I really enjoyed the job and was the link between the council and Kier, working on the roll out of a social housing refurbishment programme in the Highlands. After about a year in post, I realised that Kier had a foundation degree programme and I jumped at the opportunity to apply.

I’m now in my fourth and final year of the BSc, Construction & Commercial Management at Sheffield Hallam University. It’s a distance learning course and I travel to Sheffield four times a year for a residential week of intensive study. There are currently 45 students on my course who come from locations across the UK.

I’m currently working on building a new state-of-the-art school for Alness Academy, as the assistant site manager and I am really enjoying the job.

I love the fact that every day is different. It’s a very fast paced environment and the job itself is so varied and rewarding. On a typical day I oversee health and safety, safety briefings, issuing permits and quality control. You definitely don’t get bored and must constantly think on your feet. It’s challenging, but in a good way.

Day-to-day I work with a variety of people including the site manager and assistant site manager, project manager, health and safety advisor, engineers and quantity surveyors. I treat everyone on site as a mentor, picking their brain to get the most I can from their skills and experience.

My dad was previously the headmaster at the former school, so I already have a bit of a personal connection to the project. This has made it that bit more rewarding for me to see the build taking shape.

At 42, I am a bit older than most of the others on the programme and getting up to speed technically with what is happening on site has been the biggest challenge for me. It has been a steep learning curve from a technical perspective but studying and getting practical experience around the theory has been really helpful. In the future I would like to progress through the ranks with Kier and eventually have projects of my own to run.

If I could give advice to anyone considering a career in the construction industry, it would be that there is something for everyone as the opportunities are so diverse.I used to think jobs in construction were for builders, but it’s not like that at all, there are so many different careers available.

I am living proof that no matter what your background is, Kier can provide you with the opportunity, tools and the support to succeed in construction.