Civil engineering firms based in Scotland’s stunning rural locations are accustomed to covering expansive geographical territories while delivering highly professional services to diverse and technically-challenging construction projects with unique logistical considerations not necessarily faced by their urban competitors.
D A Macdonald (Contractors), based in Lochgilphead, Argyll is the area’s premier civil engineering contracting specialist. Their teams have forged an enviable reputation delivering first class construction projects ranging from bridge construction, hydroelectric scheme builds, coastal defence and earthworks to road construction and traditional stonework reparations.
It’s perhaps unsurprising that investing in specialist team training represents a key element in the company’s steady growth and ongoing success. Many of the company’s employees have worked with D A Macdonald for decades, and contribute a wealth of professional expertise and local knowledge.
Chris Stewart, Health, Safety, Environmental and Quality (HSEQ) Manager with D A Macdonald is a case in point. A key member of the company for over a decade, Chris initially trained as a mechanic before progressing to oversee maintenance of D A Macdonald’s extensive vehicle fleet which is now merely one of many strings to his corporate bow. A quick study and highly-focused professional, Chris has worked with Esteem Training since 2019 in the process securing a trio of SVQ Level 3 and 4 awards in occupational work supervision, construction site supervision and, more recently, construction site management.
Targeting a trio of qualifications
Commenting on his reasons for choosing to target all three qualifications, Chris commented: “At the outset, I had no real expectations of the course content or potential outcomes. I simply wanted to learn and absorb as much information as possible then put it to work in my day-to-day professional life. I’d been managing teams and company processes for some time, however I was aware that terminologies and techniques existed that I could acquire, particularly with respect to people management.
“I was pleasantly surprised how much new and immediately useful information came as part of the courses. For example how to identify different staff members’ strengths and weaknesses and how to make the best use of those strengths plus the different ways to speak to people within a range of working scenarios. And it’s not all about being the nice guy or being liked – sometimes you have to be tougher and to the point than you might at first have thought yet always speaking with respect. I really liked that all three course levels blended new information with practical experience gained in my working life.
“The managerial aspects of the course force you to take a step back and reassess your approach to relationships. You learn how to be more open-minded when relating to others, how to choose the most appropriate response for each person and how to identify and defuse potential conflicts before matters can get the chance to escalate. The techniques and tips on timekeeping and organisational skills can sometimes seem like common sense yet they work in practice.”
Flexibility, collaboration and trust
Chris worked closely with assessor David Currie, sometimes communicating late into the evening since Chris frequently works around 50 hours each week.
David expands on how the two worked together, including Esteem Training’s established relationship supporting the wider D A Macdonald team: “Before lockdown brought about our move to exclusively virtual learning and support, we held in-person workshops in Inveraray which is an ideal location for our candidates based in Argyll.
“Prior to my collaborations with Chris, we had worked with his predecessor as well as a number of his foreman colleagues, and we’ve just supported two of Chris’ team through their SVQ Level 3 construction site supervision. All the D A Macdonald team members are incredibly personable individuals, and so focused on achieving their qualifications that they need no second bidding to keep appointments, despite incredibly busy working lives and sometimes working in quite remote locations.
David continues: “Chris has been very open about the ways in which working with us has benefitted his career, and that’s so rewarding for everyone involved. As assistant to the Director, Chris is involved with virtually every aspect of operational logistics at D A Macdonald. For example, Chris leads a team of 15 staff who maintain the company’s fleet of more than 70 vehicles. He also schedules work plans, arranges training for 75 staff, supports other project managers, and is the company’s trouble-shooter and first point of contact for employees, in the field, experiencing difficulties.”
Chris picks up the thread of hefty work schedules and geographically-diverse teams: “I can’t overstate how helpful it is for us that the Esteem Training team is flexible in working around our often extended days. Normal office hours simply don’t work for us. Whether it was my questioning calls or emails to David, Karen or Emma, replies are always helpful and speedy, no matter the time of day. The team is easy to get hold of and, as a result, one of my colleagues has been able to complete his programme while working on site in the far North of Scotland.
“Esteem’s communications are clear, and you’re never made to feel that you’re being a nuisance, nor is there ever a problem rearranging appointments to work around our changing schedules. All of our staff who’ve worked with Esteem have had positive experiences, and that kind of give and take helps to build trust and has forged a meaningful partnership.
“Now that I’ve completed other types of training in topics not offered by Esteem, I’ve started to compare approaches and I can’t fault Esteem on any aspect of their operation which is why we keep working together.”