I’m a project manager for a shopfitting company, and we specialise in bespoke joinery, fitting-out five-star hotels, one-of-a-kind bars, fine-dining restaurants, and everything between across the whole of the UK.
I love what I do, even though the can be hours long. My day starts around four-thirty, and I’m usually on the train an hour later. When I get on-site, we’ll have a team meeting to go over project plans, and we’ll do a survey of the space. We check and measure the area, head back to the office to draw and develop our plans with architects, and then spend the next four weeks preparing for the big install.
When my day’s done, I’m on the train home, ready to relax with my family.
I’ve always wanted to build things, to work in a career where you can be physical and technical. And as a shopfitter, no two days are the same. Our work requires creativity, a keen eye for detail, and a passion for perfection. And we’re involved from the very beginning, managing nearly every aspect of the build. I’ll decide and evaluate which teams we need, and I’ll monitor everything we require on-site, feeding back to the buyers so we can keep the project moving. We tear down the old, and install the new, from putting up walls and raising ceilings to creating bespoke pieces and managing extended services like plumbers and electricians.
We’re all on the same team, and it’s my job to be the glue, making sure every aspect of the fit-out goes smoothly. I’ll speak with foremen from various trades to discuss the day to day work and what’s required. I’ll also make orders for materials, consumables and joinery components, and schedule the delivery of them. Another important part of my job is to look further ahead at deadlines.
When I was at school, I was presented with sixth-form as my next step. But I wanted to earn some money, to get out into the working world and start putting my skills to use. I was told about apprenticeships from a local builder who I used to work with on my half-term breaks. It was exactly what I wanted, the opportunity to learn on the job, start a career, and to start making money. I wrote a letter to every carpentry firm I knew, but this was when the recession hit so I had a lot of knockbacks before I heard from Tekne. They offered me an interview and out of eight other candidates I was successful because of my determination, which came across during the process.
After completing my apprenticeship, I had transferable skills, the kind you can take with you from one project to another. My favourite part of the job is working closely with the clients, and seeing their reactions as it all comes together. There’s a great sense of pride in this work, and every step of my construction career has helped me to develop new skills, within the industry and in my personal life, so I moved to project management.
Work is really important to me, and I’ve enjoyed every second of this career. In fact, most of the time, it doesn’t even feel like a job. I started my apprenticeship at 16 and always looked for ways I could progress, whether that was going out on-site more often or putting in a proposal to gain further qualifications and develop my skills. So I’ve progressed fast.
A proud moment was winning the National Association of Shopfitters Apprentice of the Year as it really rounded off the experience. I used the prize money to complete a two year HNC in Construction Management, and at 26, I’ve finished my 10th year at Tekne as a project manager – running projects that are worth millions of pounds. I’m now planning to study for a degree in construction management, which just shows the great relationship I’ve developed with my employers. They have faith in me.
I’ve got my career all figured out, and both my family and I benefit. I’ve got two kids who’re proud of the work I do, I’m investing in property, I get to enjoy 5-a-side with my mates, and even do a bit of coding and app development in my spare time. One day, I may even run my own business.
In construction, you can start anywhere, and get anywhere. Begin your career as a painter, and end it as a project manager – or even something totally different. If you’re a school-leaver looking to make some money and develop your career, do an apprenticeship. It takes hard work and some effort, but you’ll open up a world of opportunity.
Funded through the investment of the CITB levy.