From Engineer to Construction Supervisor

Andy Wilmer served in the Royal Engineers for 13 years until 2015. He was trained as a Combat Engineer and Heating & Plumbing Engineer, and when not on combat operations, spent his time training on the various different specialisms (bridge building, demolitions, water supply, construction etc) and keeping himself in good physical shape.

Andy’s most recent role in the Army was as the Junior Facilities Manager for the regiment. This role involved working in the Regimental Quartermasters ensuring accommodation needs for soldiers were met, maintenance issues were recorded and sorted and external contractors escorted around camp where necessary.

Andy describes the key skills he learned while serving as:

Discipline. Being where you need to be and when is drilled into you from day one of training and is something that never leaves you.

Adaptability. You have to be able to adapt to a situation or role very quickly. In a hostile environment you need to be able to adapt to your surroundings and the situations that arise.

The ability to get things done. When you are asked to do something, whether that is as an individual or a team, it gets done with no fuss.

Leadership. You are encouraged to be a leader and manage people to the best of your ability with no prejudice or discrimination. The military has a diverse number of people from different backgrounds, races and religions and we worked to a set of core values; selfless commitment, respect for others, loyalty, integrity, discipline and courage.

Unfortunately Andy was injured so leaving the Army was was thrust upon him as he was medically discharged as a result. He explains: The transition proved difficult and I don’t think I truly will transition after serving 13 years. It has been made easier by various different people, companies and charities. Getting in front of the people that matter and understand what ex-military people can offer was difficult. 

In the summer of 2017 Andy signed up with BuildForce and was quickly put in touch with the Resource Manager for Taylor Woodrow, the Civil Engineering arm of Vinci Construction UK. He set up an interview with his now Project Director, and was successful in landing his current role as Logistics Manager.

Speaking to other people who has been through the transition helped a lot but one of the best pieces of support I had was from Buildforce. Continuing in construction was the natural progression for me but getting the help and advice needed from people in the industry was proving difficult. Buildforce put me in touch with people who were at the heart of the industry and helped me get a job with a well-known and respected company.

What does a working day look like for you now?

A day normally starts between 0700 and 0730 depending on what is happening. I will look at what is coming in deliveries wise and print out a gate list for my gatemen and try to have a walk out on site around 0800 to ensure the pedestrian walkways, vehicle roads and accesses to work areas are in good order and people can get to where they need to be. 0830 will sometimes involve me doing a health and safety site induction for any new contractors starting on the site if I am down to do it on the rota. The rest of my day could be taken up with logistics meetings with Project Managers or other managers, ensuring walkways and roads are moved around in line with what happening on site. Supervising the lifting of steel work, accommodation pods and other project specific elements using tower cranes also comes under my remit. My day usually finishes around 1730 to 1800 but again depends on what is happening on site and can sometimes be slightly later.

…and what skills does Andy use in his current role?

With my role you need to be forward thinking. You need to be one step ahead of the contractors out on the ground. You need come up with solutions to problems and be able to act on a situation when it arises to ensure that the project does not stall and continues to move forward in line with the programme. Being able to work with many different people from many different trades, backgrounds and areas of expertise is essential.

Any advice for others?

Decide on what it is you want to do early on. Do some research and get some work experience in if you can. Concentrate on what you can offer rather than what you can’t. There are many companies out there that will be willing to take you on as a trainee or junior and invest some time into the right person. Get a foot in the door and show people what you can do.


Andy Wilmer
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