The Merry Month

The Chartered Institute of Building (CIOB) has organised a visit to Battersea Power Station, which I am going to attend. I am looking forward to it, although you have to take all your own five point PPE.

I hate wearing steel toe capped boots. I bought a pair one size too big some years ago and thought these would accommodate extra thick socks for the winter, which they do. But I forgot oversized boots are a trip hazard. Of course, if I’d trained as a clown I would have known this. But alas I didn’t. So every time I wear the size 12s I spend a disproportionate amount of time catching my toes on stairs, steps and all manner of foot hazards. The brain works out foot size v riser size automatically. Mine can’t cope with the extra length boot.

The stone fixing short duration courses that attract CITB grant funding are being reviewed by the CITB and I have volunteered to attend one of the review sessions. Minus the boots.

There is a Stone Federation Technical Committee meeting coming up. No boots required here either.

Of course, there is Digital Construction week this month as well – artificial Intelligence, robotic arms and more at Excel London, as previously discussed. Maybe I’ll be able to buy new boots of the correct size here. Perhaps robotic ones that do the walking for me?

Perhaps not.

And I will have a regular meeting with my mentee. It’s part of the CIOB scheme to encourage and support newcomers to the construction industry. I’m his mentor.

I have told him about the steel toe capped boots issue and that buying the appropriate size is important. He’s got a construction degree, so he doesn’t really need my advice about boot size. We also chat about the industry and how it operates and where it sometimes goes wrong, particularly when it comes to design & build contracts – those inappropriate, fixed price, inflexible beasts that stalk the industry as the norm.

Still can’t see how they can possibly work with a refurbishment project. If ever something was a trip hazard and the wrong size and shape, design & build is it.

My mentee recently found employment as a trainee QS with a quality house builder, so doesn’t necessarily agree with me on design & build. He’s excited about the industry and the opportunities it offers and wants to start his own building company... eventually.

We talk team building and collaborative working and how companies are sometimes stuck in the “this is how we have always done it” wilderness when it comes to change.

He describes his previous experience of having worked in the rail sector where the client demanded  automatic real time updates on an interactive drawing package to which architect, designer, structural engineer and specialist subcontractor all had access. No more worn, printed drawings on racks that require new copies to be printed every time there is a change. Now it’s all on a screen in the construction office.

I really admire his enthusiasm. He is curious about this industry and has a sense of adventure. I want to encourage him to bring that to his work, to use his experiences and knowledge to make a difference. He has been told he’ll be given his own job to run eventually. I told him relationships were probably the most important element of managing a project. Respecting others and seeking their opinion and meeting regularly. Taking people with you. Getting them to engage in the process and own their part of it. And planning. Weekly, monthly and whole job. Try to keep control.

I’m looking forward to seeing his progress, listening and encouraging where I can.

I was thinking we should do this for the Stone industry. There’s enough of us at the wrong end of 50. Perhaps too many. We need to support the next generation with our wisdom; our experience. Show them how it works and let  them own this industry, so they can improve it and shape it for their generation. In a way I think it’s our duty.

You might be thinking you already have a young person in your business who you have an eye on for the future. Someone you can see potential in.

You probably perform some form of mentoring for them already. But an external mentor can be impartial, giving perspective as well as being a sounding board. “A trusted and experienced advisor” is one definition of a mentor.

There are some excellent templates for mentoring schemes available on the web, particularly from universities.

So, who’s up for a mentoring scheme for the stone industry?

I can help with boot sizes.


Robert Merry, MCIOB, is an independent Stone Consultant. He ran his own stone company for 17 years before becoming first an independent project manager and now a consultant. He is also an expert witness in disputes regarding stone and stone contracts. 0207 502 6353 / 07771 997621. [email protected]