I always had ‘Grand Designs’ on my career

Robbie Hunter

By Robbie Hunter, site manager for Kier Regional Building Scotland

LIKE many children I liked playing with Lego and creating my own buildings, but it wasn’t until I started watching Grand Designs on TV, that I realised how much I was really interested in construction. All I wanted to do was design great buildings and become an architect.

During my third year at school I was offered career advice to help choose my subjects to study. The classes were great, giving me an opportunity to think about other careers in construction, such as quantity surveying or construction management.

Further research on a special career database showed me just how many years I would be studying for each career and the expected salaries. The teenage me began to realise the time it took to be an architect and I really wanted to start my career and get money in the bank.

A week’s work experience at an architect’s studio in my third year at school confirmed architecture actually wasn’t for me as I wanted to be on site, working with the people constructing the building and not as much in an office. I stayed until sixth year and passed my Highers and then opted to study an HNC in construction management at my local college in Ayr. I really enjoyed the course content and wanted to continue learning, so the following year I took up a place at Glasgow Caledonian University to study a BSc (Hons) in construction management.

The timing wasn’t ideal – it was during the recession, which meant there were very few opportunities for work placements on site during my third year. However, I didn’t let it get me down and was really pleased to be given the chance of a six-week placement with Kier on site at Montrose House Care Home on Arran.

I was a bit anxious walking on site for the first time and tried not to feel intimidated, but I shouldn’t have worried as everyone was so friendly and took the time to answer all my questions. I was a trainee assistant site manager and didn’t want it to end.

I was so keen to continue with Kier I pressed for another opportunity and was delighted when they offered me a place on their graduate scheme, even though I had one semester and a dissertation to write before I was qualified to join. It was really hard work three days on site and two days at university but Kier supported me and I have never looked back.

My friends that went into more traditional professions, such as accountancy and law are always surprised about the career opportunities and responsibility I command. I am passionate about communicating the opportunities in construction. You can start as I did as a graduate, but equally, there is nothing to stop an apprentice tradesperson working their way to the top. I would say to a young person thinking about a career in construction to ‘go for it’. I think if you take the first step into construction you won’t turn back and you’ll never regret it.

I’ve really noticed at Kier, if you have got the drive and commitment, there is a ladder to climb. Construction has given so many options for career progression. The graduate scheme can be a steep learning curve, particularly on the technical side. However, I’ve found that Kier supports its recruits with learning and development programmes and training opportunities. I am now a mentor for one of my colleagues who is currently studying part-time at university and it’s great that I can offer her advice and support. I really enjoy this new facet of my job and I hope to be given more opportunities like this in the future.

I am in an exciting career with a bright future and plenty of options ahead. I can progress my role in site management and get involved in bigger, more prestigious projects, I can work up to leading a project, or if I want the option to be more office-based in the future, I can progress through a contract management route. The industry is crammed full of opportunities and I think it’s so important to enjoy your job and to feel there are new challenges and opportunities to aim for.

I still love watching Grand Designs, but always think how much better it would be for the homeowners to employ a professional site manager to keep the projects on time and within budget. Although, it probably wouldn’t make for such entertaining television!