10 years on and still a force to be reckoned with

18th February 2021

This week at BuildForce, we celebrate the 10-year anniversary of our formation. That’s 10 years since we began helping service leavers and veterans to embark on new careers in the construction sector. As BuildForce programme director at Wilson James, I’ve seen first-hand how this initiative makes a huge difference to the individuals and companies we have engaged with, and how it is going from strength to strength. 

Caroline Logan, BuildForce Programme Director

Over the last few weeks I’ve been reflecting on the success of BuildForce during the 10 years since it launched – what we’ve achieved and the difference we have made to ex-forces personnel and construction organisations across the UK.  Having an established framework that engages with and understands an individual’s needs and capabilities is what underpins the successful achievements of BuildForce to this day. 


Supply and demand 

It’s also thanks to the sheer determination of six forward thinking companies – Wilson James, Carillion, Crossrail, Ernst & Young, Lendlease, Morgan Sindall and the Construction Industry Training Board (CITB) that BuildForce was conceived. 

Service leavers and veterans have personal attributes that make them ideal for the world of construction – their ability to work as a team in arduous conditions, attention to detail, excellent communication skills, punctuality, a ‘can-do’ attitude and a willingness to work long hours, whilst remaining calm and focused under pressure. It is estimated that the construction sector will need to recruit and train 158,000 workers between 2018-2022 to meet demand, and with 20,000 soldiers, sailors and aircrew leaving the armed forces each year, it was, and remains, the perfect match. 

BuildForce has helped to change perceptions along the way. Dewet Du Plessis, who left the Royal Marines in 2018 and is now an assistant logistics manager with EKFB HS2 JV comments, “BuildForce has opened the door to not just one or two areas of the construction industry, but enlightened me to many opportunities and a career avenue that I never would have thought about. It is a fantastic organisation, with a team that always seems to find time to lend advice or make introductions.” 


More than meets the eye 

BuildForce presents the construction industry as one that is accessible to all ranks – from privates through to brigadiers – and offers genuine potential for career progression. The aim is to offer a comprehensive service that includes information provision and guidance, as well as mental health and wellbeing support. These combine to give individuals the confidence and self-belief to reach their goals. Mentoring is also an important aspect of the process, with each candidate partnered with an industry expert to offer career advice and support as their journey progresses. 

“I have been involved with BuildForce for many years and seen first-hand the impact they have on Veterans’ lives by giving them the skills, mentoring and contacts to start a new career within the construction industry.” says Phil Crick, “As both a Veteran and a Regional Operations Director for Amey Secure Infrastructure – a large scale infrastructure support contractor that has the MOD as one of its largest Clients – I have been delighted that the company I work for is proud to support this outstanding charity and give something back to those who have served in our country’s Armed Forces. I wish BuildForce many more years of success supporting those who have served (as well as helping to narrow the skills gap for the construction industry with hugely capable individuals!) on this, their 10th Anniversary.” 

Wilson James also directly benefits from being involved with BuildForce. After a 35-year career in the British Army, Nick Channer retired from the position as chief of staff at headquarters British Forces Germany and is now chief of staff at Wilson James. He states, “I had the pleasure of being BuildForce’s 100th job start. Buildforce made a massive difference to me during my transition and I would encourage other service leavers to get in touch – the span of opportunities is much wider than some might think.” 


Looking forward 

Even though the coronavirus pandemic has affected all aspects of our personal and working lives, the construction sector has been particularly resilient and we are busier than ever. The main focus for BuidForce during this time has been our mental health offering and, at the start of lockdown, all of our face-to-face sessions, including our Armed Forces Insight Days, were quickly moved online and our virtual career chats were initiated. We also have a whole schedule of virtual events planned for 2021, including our HS2 and joint ventures series, and talks from not just key employers, but also veteran employees who will share their journeys – the highs and lows, lessons learnt and life in their civilian careers – providing an invaluable insight to the sector. 

We’re always looking at ways we can add value to our offering, and many of you may know that in 2020 we formed a partnership with University College of Estate Management (UCEM) to create the first online continuing professional development (CPD) training modules for veterans following research with our veterans and employers. These learning modules provide our candidates with the knowledge to enable them to take the first step towards becoming site and employment ready, i.e. gain an understanding of the construction industry as defined by employers. 

And one final indulgence, if I may; having joined the Defence Employer Recognition Scheme (ERS) and signed the Armed Forces Covenant in 2019, we are now working to gain the gold award, after achieving silver in 2020. We are confident that we can meet its very high standards, which include being an exemplar within our market sector whilst providing support to our veterans, partner organisations, suppliers and customers. 


Positive outlook 

As we raise a socially distanced glass to the achievements of BuildForce over the last 10 years, we look forward with enthusiasm, optimism and a determination to build on this success. Our chief executive, Angela Forbes, concludes, 

“We are immensely proud of what has been achieved. We have made huge strides in improving access to construction, raising the profile of ex-services personnel and enabling them to develop long-term careers. With the construction industry being a key driver of growth for the economy post-Covid, we are certainly up for the challenges ahead and our future is looking bright.” 


…Here’s to the next 10 years! 


If you are interested in getting involved or would like further information about BuildForce, please email info@buildforce.org.uk or visit https://www.buildforce.org.uk. 


Published with the permission of BuildForce