National Apprenticeship Week: Alastair Hamilton

07 February, 2020

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When did you start your career in the construction industry?

I have always been fascinated with buildings and I liked the idea of a career where I wasn’t stuck in an office and could spend time onsite, seeing ideas becoming a reality. My Dad also worked in construction so it inspired me to pursue a career in the same industry.

I started at Pick Everard as an undergraduate in 1986 aged 20. While working at Pick Everard, I studied Quantity Surveying at Nottingham Trent University part time. I graduated two years later and really benefitted from my experience at Pick Everard. It gave me ‘on the job’ experience, some invaluable mentoring and a real experience of the industry.

I took the Assessment of Professional Competence (APC) soon after graduating to become a Chartered Quantity Surveyor at the age of 24.

I progressed through the firm and am now a Partner, heading up Pick Everard’s project management, cost management and advisory teams.

What were your main responsibilities during your first few years at Pick Everard?

I was responsible for:

  • providing assistance and support to the senior surveyors
  • carrying out research on cost data, analysing project data for benchmarking purposes
  • taking off quantities from drawings – which was a manual process, back then – for estimating purposes or for use in the preparation of bills of quantities
  • attending site and project team meetings
  • assisting in the preparation of valuation certificates, cost reports and final accounts

The friendliness of my colleagues and willingness to support the development of graduates was a real bonus to learning. It was great to get a first-hand insight to all the various aspects of design.

What was the first project you worked on?

One of the first projects I worked on was carrying out structural concrete repairs and refurbishment works at the Leicester Wholesale Fruit Market. It may not have been the most exciting of projects but it was essential to the market’s ongoing history of trading on the same site.

During the late 1980s, Pick Everard was involved in the design and construction of several new build leisure complexes. These included mixed sports facilities, gymnasiums and spa facilities. The 1980s also saw the construction of a lot of large swimming pools with wave machines, which must have been a trend at the time.

How has the construction industry changed since 1986?

When I first started, the only technology I was using was a calculator! Most of our work was done by hand and had to be checked manually. Advancements in technology have had a huge impact on the construction industry. There’s now a greater focus on intelligently analysing designs to drive efficiencies and optimise value in construction.

As a result, there are now so many more opportunities for apprentices and graduates searching for their next career opportunity.

Pick Everard has certainly embraced a modern way of working but one thing hasn’t changed: our supportive and collaborative culture.

When I first started, I noticed that there was a real multi-disciplinary approach to projects, with teams sharing knowledge and experience. This is something that still happens today. Our teams are incredibly supportive and always willing to help the development of graduates and apprentices.

What’s the most valuable piece of advice you’ve been given?

Always ask questions – no matter how trivial them may seem.

What advice would you give to 2020’s apprentices and graduates?

I believe in showing respect for others and having a positive ‘can do’ attitude. I always advise apprentices and graduates to continue to move towards getting professionally qualified as soon as possible. It is important to continue the impetus of learning to gain recognised qualifications and the guidance and governance professional bodies can give.

What’s next?

The industry needs to find more ways to attract more people into construction – whether at school leaver or graduate level, or for people looking to make a career change later in life. Working alongside universities and professional bodies is fundamental in order to make this possible.

We are all ambassadors for our industry and need to shout about why it’s great in order to encourage the next generation to embark on truly inspiring and rewarding careers.

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