From Corps of Royal Engineers to Regional Consents Lead

Balfour Beatty VINCI, HS2

Andrew Bellingall served in the Corps of Royal Engineers, for 34-years, leaving in 2021. “My most recent role (my final 6 years) was Deputy Commander 8 Engineer Brigade, at the time, the largest Brigade in the Army.  I advised the Commander (CEO), oversaw the construction training programme, was the business change manager (BCM) for four Engineer and EOD related programmes, led on overseas defence engagement with South Asia (the Brigade’s regional responsibility), commanded the NATO facing Multinational Engineer Headquarters, mentored the Brigade staff, chaired the Brigade civilian staff work recognition and reward panel, led investigations and inquiries following complaints and deputised for the Commander. My typical day was routinely office based though I frequently travelled overseas (South Asia, Europe, USA, Far East) representing, variously, the Brigade, the Army or the MOD.  Several times a year I would deploy on exercises or conferences with NATO but the role that took up most of my time was attending project meetings as BCM, either on Teams or in person at the Army HQ in Andover.

With regards to my own skills developed during my time in the Army: Leadership – I commanded Engineer units at all levels from a troop of 30 to a group of 2000 people.  Project Management – I was on the four programme executive boards as BCM and completed MSP and Managing Benefits courses, but also managed many projects of my own over the years, including letting a contract for Social Work Services!  Planning – all military operations require planning, often in detail and covering contingencies.  Dealing with Complexity – deploying on operations in the Balkans, Iraq and Afghanistan and facing wicked problems.  Managing Change – the BCM role ensured that new capabilities and equipment were integrated seamlessly into the Brigade.  Military Engineering – I am a Fellow of the Institution of Royal Engineers (FInstRE).  Problem Solving – it’s what we do.  Stakeholder Engagement – conflict resolution in the Balkans, engaging with other Militaries in NATO and South Asia, engaging with users, trainers, maintainers, suppliers and the like as BCM.  Quite Handy with Explosives – I’d rather not say!

My transition was very short, from the point I decided to return to work (having enjoyed a gap year at home) to the point of starting my new career was a matter of only a couple of months.  I suspect that most service leavers searching for their next career lack confidence in their ability to find work.  They don’t know what they don’t know so I suggest the transition period should be a confidence building opportunity.  All of my engagement with the BuildForce team was very positive and this goes a long way to building that confidence.

I am now a Regional Consents Lead with Balfour Beatty VINCI working on HS2. I was contacted by BBV after BuildForce sent them my CV.  I was offered the role based on my military skills.  My lack of experience building a railway and my lack of knowledge of consents was deemed to be of secondary importance.  They felt they could teach me those skills quickly whereas my military skills took 34 years to hone.

I am comfortable embracing change and I get on well with people.  Asking for help has never been an issue.  Having changed role multiple times throughout my military career, I was well versed in learning a new role quickly and efficiently and this change was no different.  The quality of the people I now work with and the camaraderie I found at work went a long way towards replacing what I was used to in the Army.

The environmental consents I work with are complex, technical in nature and require nuanced engagement with the authorities.  Learning the language and developing and then protecting the relationships with the consent granting bodies very quickly became my focus.  I also found I had to be robust with the construction delivery teams, acting as BBV’s environmental conscience, to ensure that work wouldn’t commence without consent. I develop the strategies and supervise the production of consent applications in a timely manner to enable construction of the railway to meet the programme timelines. I coordinate the activities of three consents teams working on environmental and highways consent applications. I engage with my main external stakeholders, the Client, the Design Joint Venture and the Consent Granting Body. I prepare and distribute management information. I solve problems. I give direction where required and advice when sought.  I am a Line Manager and a Mentor. I talk to my and other staff both professionally and personally.

Skills I use in my day job include planning, organising, solving problems, stakeholder engagement, leadership, project management and many more.  90% of what I do I learnt in the Military and apply in my new career.  The Army made me and BBV are now the beneficiaries.

Advice I would give to someone who is leaving the Armed Forces and seeking a new career in construction, don’t be put off by limited construction SQEP.  Your greatest values stem from your attitude and experience gained in service life.  Many people in the industry know construction inside out but few can bring to bear the skills inherent in service-leavers.  Have confidence in your ability to adapt, be resilient, committed and effective.

Three words to describe a career in construction are interesting, rewarding, varied. To describe a Veteran is adaptable, committed, resilient.”