Setting your sights on site management

Life can seem pretty stressful at times as we juggle family commitments, home schooling, changing COVID protocols and a rolling news cycle that rarely seems to deliver good news.

With such a plethora of competing demands for our time, it could be easy to lose sight of long-term career goals while we focus, understandably, on more immediate challenges. Not so for Sandy Petrie, Site Agent with CHAP Group’s Minor Works Team based in Aberdeen, who completed his online SVQ3 in Construction Site Supervision (CSS) towards the end of 2020. Sandy’s team is kept extremely busy, delivering a range of niche construction projects for clients in the education, healthcare and residential housing sectors.

Sandy trained as a joiner and had amassed a wealth of practical expertise managing multi-disciplinary composite teams comprising CHAP Group employees and select sub-contractors. He was therefore keen to further his career development by securing a recognised industry qualification that would deliver management-oriented skills while demonstrating his commitment to the business and willingness to assume additional responsibilities.

“CHAP Group is really good when it comes to investing in staff training, and Doug Coutts our Training Manager guided me towards Esteem Training Limited. Doug has worked with Esteem for some time and rates them highly, so I signed up in autumn 2020.  I’ll admit I was a bit anxious as I had no real sense of what to expect, or how I would manage the coursework while working full-time. I already had my SMSTS site management certification, and so I started working with my assessor David towards the start of November 2020. That’s when everything really started to slot into place.”

Image courtesy of CHAP Group

Since many construction professionals spend much of their time on site, securing time online for assessor coaching sessions and quiet time to upload evidence can present a challenge. Sandy has some advice including, if possible, scheduling WhatsApp or Microsoft Teams sessions with your assessor in the window of time when you finish up one job but before starting another. Also, consistently booking meeting room space and putting up a ‘Do Not Disturb’ sign to safeguard your training quiet zone.

With Sandy focused on pressing ahead to secure his SVQ as swiftly as possible, David Currie, his assessor arranged for Sandy to start work on a number of core modules for which Sandy had already amassed evidence through on site collaborations with contracts manager colleagues.

David adds: “Sandy was quite clear that he wanted to gain a high level site supervision qualification since he felt that his practically-acquired expertise, though excellent, wasn’t offering him adequate career advancement opportunities.

“We therefore worked as flexibly as possible, always around Sandy’s availability, settling on WhatsApp videos as the most convenient channel for his evidence uploads. We had regular weekly coaching sessions plus email exchanges whenever Sandy needed some additional input. I make a point of answering emails within a maximum of 30 minutes as I know candidates are generally pressed for time, and need an answer pretty much there and then.”

Image courtesy of CHAP Group

Esteem Training’s switch to virtual learning during lockdown has proven popular with candidates, including Sandy and several colleagues who have completed occupational work supervision, construction site supervision and site management certifications with our team. Our virtual learning environment, including online resources and toolkits, has meant reduced time off site and – with assessor flexibility respecting and accommodating candidates’ schedules – more control for candidates over when and where they choose to complete their training modules.

Clear communication is key in helping candidates to succeed, and Sandy has some further thoughts to share: “Some past courses with other providers can be a little dry with assessors who know their topic but who perhaps aren’t as good at passing on their knowledge. I found the communications from Esteem to be really clear which definitely helped. I also liked that instructions came in a written email so that I could go back to re-read sections, especially as there can often be noise distractions on site.”

Sandy enjoyed the people management elements of his course: dealing with conflict resolution including tools and techniques to defuse situations which could otherwise escalate. Sandy has been promoted by CHAP Group to Site Agent from Foreman Supervisor – an important milestone in his ultimate career trajectory towards Site Manager. His team has been back on site for several months following a 14-week shutdown in late 2020, in keeping with much of Scotland’s construction industry.

Sandy sums up his training experience candidly: “Although I don’t have too many similar experiences to compare against, I was really happy with Esteem from start to finish. Doug Coutts our Training Manager recommended Esteem, and CHAP Group have worked with David and his fellow assessors for some time, so that was good enough for me to take the plunge. I do feel that Esteem works with us in partnership as opposed to just another training supply company and that’s likely the reason we keep coming back.”