Careers and Opinion

How to grow your own construction leaders

Building firms can address the skills crisis by investing in their own construction leaders, says Martina Höfner of Chartered Building Consultancy Esteem Training.
Construction leadership SMEs (Dreamstime)
Image: Dreamstime

The UK’s skills gap, succession planning and eye-watering recruitment costs are providing significant headaches for the construction sector. Many companies, particularly at SME level, struggle to find managers to run projects and develop businesses. But there are some building firms who have successfully developed their own strong construction leaders, from non-traditional management backgrounds.

We’re a specialist Scottish construction supervisory and management vocational training company. Our team has mentored thousands of candidates, UK-wide, to secure senior qualifications in construction site management and strategic management programmes. Many were already managing construction sites, having learned ‘on the tools’ as joiners, plumbers, painters and decorators or bricklayers, leaving school at 16 without formal qualifications.

Our approach lies in developing core transferrable skills. This resonates with CIOB’s commitment to promote ethical practice and effective leadership. Over six months, our construction site management candidates work one-to-one with assessor mentors acquiring project, resources and people management skills. This includes dispute resolution and effective communication, as well as knowledge of industry standards and legalities.

Strategic management programme

The higher-level strategic management programme covers more advanced project management and leadership skills, including recruitment and mentoring, operational sustainability, procurement and bid submission.

Many SMEs do not possess robust management processes, support infrastructure or have clear succession plans.

Wherever possible, we advocate carving out dedicated time for learning, off-site, coupled with informal ongoing peer group knowledge exchange. We believe it is important to cater for all learning styles and pride ourselves on offering additional support to any candidates who have been identified as neurodiverse.

Several construction site management graduates – including Neil Callaghan, owner of Calibre Building and Decorating, Lichfield – have taken the CIOB membership plunge. Mark Anderson, senior contract manager with CHAP Group is part-way through the application process, assisted by his assessor, our quality manager Debbie Knights.

Fast-tracked CIOB membership

We have incorporated fast-tracked CIOB membership into our eight-month strategic management programme. Our recently-upgraded construction site management programme now includes eligibility for fast-tracked membership.

We’ve worked with Lynne McKay, CIOB regional manager for Scotland, to develop our programme. Scotland’s construction sector differs from other parts of the UK in comprising approximately 90% small to medium enterprises (SMEs). Many Scottish SMEs – though professional and experienced in their delivery – do not possess robust management processes, support infrastructure or have clear succession plans.

However, specialist vocational training in key management disciplines could go a considerable distance towards resolving the UK construction industry’s skills deficit.

Martina Höfner is operations director of Chartered Building Consultancy Esteem Training.

Story for CM? Get in touch via email: [email protected]


  1. Let me take us back 30 years when newly qualified graduates (and trades people) were not able to find their first step on their career path.

    In 1993 it was estimated that seven out of 10 construction industry students (i.e. 70%!) were not able to find placements in order to complete their training and education. ‘Where will the senior managers and trades of the future come from?’, someone asked in trade magazine

    These young people are now in their 50s (and those who went in as mature students, to change career from previously destroyed industries, are now in their 60s) , and naturally we now hear of a shortage of senior people and experiences trades.

Comments are closed.

Latest articles in Careers and Opinion