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
Deeley Construction has an excellent reputation with clients and sub-contractors alike but we thought there was a better way of working with those businesses we employ and on whom our reputation relies.
We spoke to our contracts managers, site managers, surveyors and estimators and asked them which companies we worked well with and, also, to identify where there had been any issues. As I mentioned previously, they were open discussions and it was the right time to find a new way of working.
Initially, we sent a questionnaire to several sub-contractors and asked for complete honesty. We wanted to know what businesses thought about working with Deeley – from health and safety through to settling accounts. The feedback was very positive.
It also gave us some really useful information on the different businesses – if a sub-contractor was performing well, we didn’t want to overload them with work that would have been too much and, equally, we don’t want to be under-using them if they had proved they could meet demands without compromising on quality.
We then invited several sub-contractors, from a variety of trades, in for meetings and said we wanted to look at the relationship as more of a partnership with them. Just merely holding the meetings was a great start. You could tell that they all liked the fact we were talking to them on level terms and that began the process of building towards partnership working.
Following that process, we now have several partners from all of the major trades that we tap into and we can bring them in to discuss projects at the tendering stage of the process. They can give objective views on how quickly and how costly certain elements of a contract will be and it means we can often save our client money and, also, be much more accurate with our timescales. Everybody wins.
That’s not to say that we don’t want to hear from other sub-contractors. We do, 100 per cent, but this process has just allowed us to develop those partnerships with businesses rather than starting from scratch whenever we start to tender for a job.
This all took place prior to the Covid-19 crisis but, in my view, it has really stood us in good stead since the pandemic hit.
There were those first few weeks when the advice for the construction sector was, at best, ambiguous but we were very quick to get back on site in a safe and socially distanced way as soon as we could.
And, having had those conversations and meetings with our sub-contractor partners, it meant we had great buy-in from them and it meant we lost much less time on sites than could have otherwise been the case.
Companies such as M&T, Nedlon and Drywall – to name but a few (and there were certainly plenty of others) – meant our work on everything from care homes through to a new high-tech car park at HORIBA MIRA could continue at a pace.
So, there’s no doubt that partnership working has helped us during the crisis but I believe it is going to produce even better results for all of us when we finally get back to normal.
Eleanor Deeley, Deputy Managing Director of the Deeley Group, on how construction is adapting to a limited return to site working
There is no doubt that parts of the economy are beginning to show signs of life – but the tap is only being turned on very slowly.
I was on one of many recent video calls when someone said that as we end lockdown it will be a little like when you have had your boiler repaired. When you turn on tap it splutters as the pipes refill and takes a while for the flow to be resumed.
On the construction side of the Deeley Group, the announcement of lockdown and social distancing meant our tap was tightly turned off and we closed our 11 sites.
I fully appreciate that it is very difficult for Government to be clear and concise bearing in mind the myriad of unprecented measures they are bringing in at the moment but there was, at best, uncertainty as to what was essential working.
Also, the advice that work would continue also came with a heavy hint that there was little understanding as to how a site works and that did cause concern in the industry.
Slowly the sector got to grips with exactly how we could continue working to a level while strictly adhering to the social distancing rules. That has, inevitably, meant big changes in how we work.
For example, signing in is now by text rather than an electronic fingerprint system; canteens are closed; site times, break times and lunch times are staggered; we can only have 10-30 per cent of the number of people on site to allow for social distancing.
There have been struggles getting materials – especially plasterboard – and many of the builders’ merchants were closed until very recently. That is all easing and the supply of UK-produced goods is getting much better, but there will be times when we are held up by the absence of products such as lifts or air-conditioning units, which have to be imported.
Interestingly, in a world of sub-contractors, there has been a total regard for the health and wellbeing of staff, which has been refreshing to witness particularly when, at the same time, there were images from major construction projects where workers paying no attention to the guidance.
Sub-contractors are only coming back to sites where they are confident that social distancing can be maintained and, when it can’t, there is suitable PPE used by all.
But no-one should be under the impression that this means we are back to normal. Social distancing is likely to remain in place for many months to come and this means that the rate of construction is going to remain low because of the limited numbers on site.
As ever, industry is going to have to find a way to overcome the hurdle. We might need
to extend working hours as we have the longer evenings arriving, almost operating a two-shift system to maximise the number of working hours on site.
I think an increase in weekend working is almost inevitable, but that will not only allow us to maintain progress as much as possible but it will also allow sub-contractors to earn, which will very welcome after the last two months.
Equally inevitable will be increased costs because efficient sequencing of a build will not be possible given the restrictions in place and the equipment shortages.
There are also other more trivial, but still important, consequences. Spirit on a site is always important but with people working alone we simply cannot interact in the same way.
There is going to be part of our morale that is absent as we miss the joke that we don’t hear, and the catch up over a coffee during a break.
But that is a small price to pay.
Eleanor Deeley, Deputy Managing Director of the Deeley Group, casts her eye over how the planning system is adjusting to life in lockdown
At a time when people have been panic buying shopping for toilet rolls, cutting their own hair and congregating for karaoke parties during the lockdown, it is refreshing – and indeed rare – to highlight the planning structure as a model of good sense.
Despite the tragic events which have crippled countries across the globe and robbed families of loved ones, other aspects of life have to try to operate as normal or at least adapt to the unique circumstances in which we find ourselves.
I think everyone has been pleasantly surprised, for example, how quickly people have adjusted to working from home and meeting virtually.
It would have been all too easy for development and construction to grind to a total halt. While many of the aspects of the profession have been rendered impossible through restrictions, the Government flexing planning regulations has allowed a great deal of work to continue when otherwise it would have been forced to cease.
The change has allowed more planning matters to be agreed under delegated powers which means that there continues to be a flow of applications being processed.
As with all aspects of business during the lockdown period, precise preparation and clear communication are vital in ensuring officers have as full a picture as possible allowing them to be comfortable they are able to make the right decisions.
The changes to planning regulations have also given council’s certain freedoms to decide the best ways to operate within guidelines.
Planning meetings can, for example, be held remotely with members logging in over the internet or on the telephone. The location of a meeting can now be defined digitally such as a web address or video conference call rather than a physical place.
As long as committee members, officers and applicants can hear and be heard then a meeting can go ahead. Contributions from the members of the public if they are allowed to speak can be registered in advantage.
I wonder how many times committees would like to have had a “mute facility” at their disposal in real meetings!
Public consultations are, by their very nature, far harder to carry out during lockdown yet the Local Government Association Planning Advisory Service has urged local authorities to press on employing social media, interactive maps and online information, and utilising virtual groups through channels such as Facebook.
These are still early days relative to public consultations and there are more formal and structured elements to the process which may not be able to be conducted remotely, and there is talk of guidance being flexed to make that possible should this situation continue.
There are elements which have proved trickier to overcome. Some smaller councils do not have it within their constitution to make decisions without a physical meeting while traffic counts – a key factor in planning applications and consents – are impossible to measure when we are restricted to essential journeys only.
Again, if lockdown continues then the system will have to adapt and research has shown that more than three quarters of councillors are behind the process continuing virtually until the crisis is behind us.
What this dreadful time has shown is that, when the pressure is on and needs must, the planning system, which at times seems massively inflexible, can be shaped and moulded to mutual benefit.
Wouldn’t it be wonderful if that spirit of understanding and mutual working continued long after this horrible period is over?
The strength of the manufacturing and industrial sector across the country has seen a Coventry construction company land £11 million worth of contracts.
Deeley Construction is working on more than 135,000 sq. ft. of much needed employment space at four new, bespoke industrial developments at locations across Coventry, Warwickshire, Rutland and Buckinghamshire.
They range from design-and-build projects for owner/occupiers through to speculative builds on behalf of developers.
The company is working with AC Lloyd at Kites Park in Princes Risborough on the creation of a £5.4 million scheme to create in total nearly 70,000 sq. ft. of warehouse & office space.
Deeley Construction is also on-site on a workshop unit in Water Orton in North Warwickshire on behalf of Flexdart Ltd, which has seen the demolition of existing buildings and the creation of a new 19,485 sq. ft. unit.
Flexdart is traditionally a scrap metal merchant which is branching out into property development and selected Deeley Construction thanks to the firm’s agility and flexibility to deliver the project.
Deeley is working for Mecc Alte (UK) directly on its new £2.9 million design-and-build industrial unit in Oakham, Rutland and also on a £1.4 million scheme of workshop units to expand the Loades Ecoparc in Coventry.
In each area, the firm is utilising the local labour force which has a positive knock-on effect for the local community and economy.
Peter Deeley, Managing Director of the Deeley Group, said the company is perfectly placed to deliver new industrial and warehouse units as that area of the economy continues to grow.
He said: “The feeling is that there is still a shortage of industrial and warehouse space in this region and further afield to meet the demand of SME’s who wish to expand their operations.
“We fit into a niche category of providing the construction of sub 50,000 sq. ft. units which enables these businesses to grow.
“Deeley Construction has landed this work thanks to the reliability and integrity of the team both through an active tendering process and negotiated contracts.
“Our aim is to be more than a contractor and to become a partner on any given project. As a group, we also have the ability to bring land and build package deals to any interested parties.
“That is one of the reasons we were successful in landing these contracts and it’s certainly a very positive area of business for the company.”
A Coventry construction company has continued its commitment to bringing forward the next generation of talent in the industry.
Deeley Construction, which is based at George House at Coventry Business Park, has taken on three new apprentices to assist with the firm’s continued growth.
Charlie Stevens and Matt Byrne are both management trainees with the company and Katie-May Cashmore is a trainee accounts assistant.
Charlie is undertaking a Construction Management Degree at Birmingham City University, while Matt is studying for a BTEC Diploma in Construction Level 3 at South & City College Birmingham. Katie-May is completing an AAT Diploma Level 2 at Coventry College City Campus.
The trio continue a long-held tradition at Deeley Construction of growing its own workforce with almost 20 per cent of the company’s staff coming through the firm as an apprentice.
It’s a proud record that includes managing director Martin Gallagher, who welcomed Charlie, Matt and Katie-May to the company.
Martin said: “The skills shortage in construction is one of the biggest issues facing our industry but here at Deeley Construction we have always seen apprenticeships as a great route to growing our own and the industry’s future workforce.
“I know only too well the benefits of being an apprentice having started my career as one. It gave me the opportunity to work my way up through the business to the point where I am now able to give others the same chance I had.
“It’s great that Charlie, Matt and Katie-May want to develop a career in construction and also highlights that there are many roles in our sector from being out on-site through to being based in the office.
“As a company, we continue to grow and the addition of three new apprentices is a perfect way for us to start looking ahead to 2018.”
Pictured (left to right): Charlie Stevens, Katie-May Cashmore, Martin Gallagher, Matt Byrne