BuildForce September 2023 blog

Our blog this month is from our Board Director, Malcolm Bairstow.

“My blog is a blatant sales pitch (and a sincere request) for you to consider making a career in construction (the industry often referred to as infrastructure, or the built environment). BuildForce is exactly what it says on the tin, established to provide a bridge that enables Veterans & Armed Forces Leavers to access an industry needing their experience. A skilled team of dedicated professionals who recognise the value of people with a forces background and military experience, BuildForce provides open access to many of the leading companies in the construction sector together with personal support and guidance as to the best way forward.

So why am I qualified to write this?….I recently retired from a 42 year career spent in the construction & infrastructure sector and am proud to declare that at different stages I had experience of labouring (as a student), site supervision, design consultancy, senior management, advisory and even being a client. These roles allowed me to experience the entire end to end construction food chain from the early conceptual visions of the designer through to the cutting of the ribbon at completion. I consider that I was blessed to play small parts in building houses, roads, dams, sea defences, airports, opera houses, theatres, art galleries and on a couple of occasions, infrastructure plans for entire countries.

Around 2010 and towards the end of my career I decided that I would like to dedicate some time to finding ways to strengthen skills and resources in the industry that had given me such a fulfilling career. It seemed obvious in the noughties that many great people were leaving the military with the very skills that the construction industry was struggling to find. After many conversations with senior military and construction leaders it was clear that there was an appetite for an organisation such as BuildForce. Further conversations with a few very experienced and dedicated individuals (most of whom are still on the Board of BuildForce today) and we were up and running in 2011!

Whilst major public infrastructure projects often get bad press, usually related to exceeding budgets or running late, it is the criticality of these investments to all of our lives that make them so newsworthy. The construction industry is often portrayed as poorly performing and whilst there is sometimes no smoke without fire, the sheer scale, complexity and technical challenges involved requires world class engineering, logistics and teamwork skills in order to succeed consistently. These are the disciplines that the armed forces take for granted…so as well as an industry that needs experienced Veterans and Service Leavers, it is an industry shedding many of its historic limitations and today harnessing technology, innovation, diversity and flexible working practices. Of the many benefits of working in the sector, one of the greatest is the creation of numerous physical memorials to one’s career….be it buildings, structures, public places or transport systems….most will outlive the individuals that helped create them but will give them a great sense of pride long after the ribbon is cut!

I really miss the creativity, the excitement and the teamwork but am happy to leave the blood, sweat & tears to those that follow….for now I am content to take great pride in the work that the BuildForce team delivers for an increasing number of service leavers year on year.”