Even arts graduates can find their passion in construction - Lisa Gray

Buildings are evolving from the structure over our heads to projects that encourage community growth and collective wellbeing, says Gray. Picture: Contributed
Buildings are evolving from the structure over our heads to projects that encourage community growth and collective wellbeing, says Gray. Picture: Contributed
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My childhood dreams were all about being on stage. From pantomimes to amateur ­theatre groups to exams, I loved every minute, but it wasn’t long before I realised that it was only a hobby and that receiving a Bafta wasn’t my aim in life.

My route into construction began during my first work experience stint at a property consultancy firm when I was 15. During this work experience, I visited a country estate to attend site meetings, met gamekeepers and got an insight into the activities that take place on site to make it viable. The history behind the management and conservation of the buildings and land was key to my intrigue.

I was determined to go to university and study an academic subject and was delighted to be accepted to study ­English and History of Art at the University of Aberdeen. Whilst studying, I was beginning to think my dream job would be reading manuscripts for a publishing house – the prospect of a lifetime of reading wouldn’t even feel like a job!

However, thanks to the architecture modules within my History of Art course, my interest in buildings and their origins was never far from the surface. After graduating, I worked for a large jewellery retailer for a short time before I heard about the bid coordinator ­vacancy with Kier. I was very lucky to have the opportunity to complete an eight-week work placement in Glasgow with the ­pre-construction team at Kier Regional Building and made the daily 139-mile ­commute without hesitation.

After successfully completing my placement, I was offered the chance to join the team on a permanent basis and moved to Glasgow in May 2017 to start working at the group’s Scottish headquarters in Stepps.

Learning the ins and outs of construction has been a challenge and I ­quickly ­discovered that I would learn ­something new with every day. My writing has developed vastly, into the concise style required for tenders. Everyone, in the Glasgow office and across the regions, is always willing to help. My line manager and ­pre-construction director have been ­integral to my development.

Outdated stigma

Since joining Kier, I have seen just how much the sector requires skills from many different disciplines, not just those which may be traditionally associated with ­construction. My History of Art studies, for example, turned out to be massively useful when tendering a heritage project and I was delighted to be involved in our bids to intricately refurbish Glasgow’s ­Burrell Museum and redevelop the city’s Citizen’s Theatre.

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As a coordinator, much of my time is spent in the office, but it’s great to go out and visit the sites to fully understand the work that is, or will be, taking place. It helps to bring to life the practicalities and realities of how we achieve what we write about.

My day-to-day job covers all bid coordination across the Scottish region from new builds to historic restorations and refurbishments. It involves writing, liaising with ­professionals, in-depth research and full ­analysis of questions and responses.

I have worked across multiple sectors including health care, education, commercial, retail and defence – my most challenging and, ultimately, favourite project so far was for a large-scale defence facility. This ended up being my steepest learning curve, and the project which proved rewarding.

The stigma around construction is ­becoming more and more outdated as ­buildings evolve from the structure over our heads to projects that encourage community growth and collective wellbeing.

Construction is about creating and ­preserving buildings that contribute to ­people’s lives and, at a time of advancing ­technology and building methods, it’s more exciting than ever.

- Lisa Gray is a bid co-ordinator for Kier Regional Building Scotland.