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News: From Apprentice to Director: CoTrain talks to Ian Edwards, Willmott Dixon

01 April 2019

CoTrain interviews Ian Edwards, Director of Operations at Willmott Dixon, about his career journey so far from apprentice to Director of Operations

CoTrain interviews Ian Edwards, Director of Operations at Willmott Dixon, about his career journey so far. With perseverance, Ian worked his way up from apprentice to Director of Operations. He shares his story with us.

How did you start in the construction industry? 

I finished school and didn’t have a clue what I wanted to do for a career so I filled out a questionnaire at my local college (Guildford College). The college then sent me a list of courses that they thought may suit me. One of the courses was a GNVQ in the Built Environment which had a heavy bias on technical drawing and really took my interest so I enrolled.

During the course I realised that technical drawing wasn’t the most exciting thing in the world so I started thinking about what else I could do.

No particular person inspired me or nudged me in that direction but I had always been a practical rather than academic person so building sites had always intrigued me.

What was your first role? 

Towards the end of my course I saw an advert for a position as a trainee Quantity Surveyor at a company called Amec Construction, so I applied, was successful and started in September 1997. At Amec it was compulsory for all trainees to spend their first 6 months in operations so that’s what I did working as a chain boy to the chief site engineer at a new build office project in Slough.

I ended up staying on that project for 9 months and I really enjoyed the experience on site and the reward and sense of achievement that you get from being involved in a project. That sense of achievement is still what keeps me intrigued and interested in projects to this day

What were some of your early challenges?

The biggest challenge in my early career is that I, together with the other trainees I had joined with, were made redundant 9 months after we had joined. This was obviously a shock and made me really question the industry I had joined.

The HR team at Amec were excellent as they were also at risk of redundancy yet they made sure we all got new jobs.

So to cut a long story short I joined Willmott Dixon as a management trainee in the summer of 1998. During my 9 months on site at Amec I decided to change my discipline to site management as I had enjoyed my experience so much.

Another big challenge during my early career is that there is so much to learn in the construction Industry and I was impatient. It took a good few years for my impatience to subside but was really useful to drive my learning.

Did you ever feel like leaving the industry? 

Not really, but this was tested when I was made redundant so early in my career

What has been your career route to director at Willmott Dixon?

I have followed a well-trodden path through the trainee management scheme then building management and became an operations director in 2015.

Can you share a career high point?

There have been a few but the one that probably stands out the most was building the Grandstand at Epsom Racecourse. To be part of the team that worked at this iconic racecourse still fills me with great pride.

And probably my time as a trainee. Life was much simpler back then and was great fun.

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