16 September 2021

The construction industry continues to prosper after a difficult two years but there remain numerous reports that expertise and resource are scarce. It is up to our generation to support the next and provide the access to training they need to develop their skills and that of the industry.

Neil Goff Collins Construction

Neil Goff, Technical Services Director

It isn’t unusual for larger contractors to have established TSM training programmes in place but the recent disruption should highlight to contractors of all sizes the importance of developing people for the long-term future.

Technical services is taking on a more significant role in construction having evolved into a position that requires skills in robust management, planning and increased technical capability. The TSMs at Collins now play a major part in pre-construction, are responsible for ensuring accurate appointment of services contractors, manage and review design and installation, oversee commissioning and witnessing, all while liaising with design consultants and continuously acquiring new skills and qualifications.

It is tempting to recruit established TSMs and this is usually the most commercially viable response for smaller contractors. They don’t have the infrastructure to invest time and commitment to the development and training of individuals in the way that the larger contractors do. The growth of Collins over the past few years created the infrastructure, and the opportunity, to offer a detailed programme of training. A recent review of our programme has highlighted the value investing in and developing future TSMs has had on our business.

Our TSM training programme has been in place and evolving over the past five years. Our size means we can offer young TSMs bespoke training tailored to each individual and programmes that reflect their strengths and experience; we are also able to provide a close-knit support network of TSMs with a range of experience.

Our unique skillset of delivering the whole life-cycle of projects from heavy structural refurbishment through to Cat B fit out means there are plenty of opportunities to fully integrate individuals into project teams so they can gain experience in all different types of contracts. This integration ensures they are not simply used for menial tasks and can fully interact and engage with sub-contractors, consultants and architects through to the clients and their teams.

While our growth has enabled us to put this programme in place, we’re still of a size that offers regular exposure to the senior management team from the MD down, so that any new starters truly feel part of the business.

We started the TSM training process in 2016 when we appointed our first assistant TSM. A young, fully qualified electrician from one of our regular sub-contractors wanted to develop his career into management as a TSM. Collins was busy and we needed to expand our team; the usual process would have been to recruit an established TSM. 

Instead, we made the conscious decision to bring on board an assistant who could support the workload while at the same time learn the role and develop their skills. It felt like a risk at the time due to existing work pressures; we realised we would need to increase our time commitment and support to ensure the individual was given the right level of exposure to gain appropriate experience and knowledge. Our newly formed training team was responsible for the programme as well as helping select the most relevant type of college course so the TSM could further enhance their technical knowledge.

Within months, it was clear our commitment and effort had helped develop a highly motivated, well trained individual actively contributing to and feeling part of the ongoing success of Collins Construction.

On the evidence of this success and after another thorough recruitment process, we appointed an individual with a trade background, relevant degree qualifications and main contractor experience. We paired them with a mentor and identified relevant projects so they could gain the right experience. Once again, ahead of expectations and through the commitment of both the individual and the training programme, the candidate was soon performing the role of and subsequently promoted to a full TSM.

We have recently appointed a young candidate with a mechanical commissioning background and main contractor experience. We have provided a programme of mentoring and opportunities to take on significant responsibilities within our projects. At the same time we are supporting him through further day release education. We are already seeing incredible progress and developing another capable, effective TSM who understands the Collins way.

Due to the dedication and enthusiasm of the candidates we are gaining well rounded, experienced and technically astute individuals as valuable additions to our technical services team. Our aim is for Collins to be recognised as a leader in delivering bespoke, rigorous TSM training programmes and for having knowledgeable and expert technical services managers operating at their very best.

We can truly say that the benefit to the business and wider industry makes the dedication and commitment required for the process, more than worthwhile.

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