“They looked at me, flabbergasted. They said ‘we never do anything for an entire afternoon’”

Education is a booming sector, thanks to a growing global population with a thirst for knowledge. But how can today’s schools and universities prepare for a world that doesn’t yet exist? In the latest issue of The Possible, the thought leadership magazine my company Wordmule produces for WSP, I compiled this 14-page infographic feature on the many challenges that the Fourth Industrial Revolution presents to educators around the world. What should next-generation learning spaces look like, how can we pay for a transformation on this scale, and how do you teach a digital native anything when they can just Google it?

The secret profession

With a fast-growing membership around the world, the RICS surveying qualification could be considered one of the UK’s most successful education exports. Ten years ago, just 15% of members and candidates were based outside the UK – today, more than a third can be found across Asia, Europe, the Middle East, India and the Americas. But what isn’t changing nearly fast enough is the gender balance of the RICS. Globally, only 16% of members are female and the figure is even lower in the UK, leaving the profession hardly representative of its client base or the populations it serves. In this article for Modus, the RICS magazine, I reported on the institution’s drive to recruit from a broader cross-section of society, making careers in surveying more appealing to school kids and graduates alike – and, crucially, making them aware that surveying exists in the first place.

 

“We don’t get into bidding wars with employees”

Are you sitting comfortably? More than three-quarters of people in the insurance sector are – according to the latest jobs market survey from Reed, which found that 77% considered themselves either secure or very secure in their jobs. Ironically, and unfortunately for their employers, that means they’re much more likely to be looking around for other opportunities. In this piece for Insurance Times, I looked at what firms are doing to hang on to their staff as the employment market picks up, from hard cash to monitoring for signs of the five-to-seven-year itch…

The P word

Wanted: a senior civil engineer, with a strong commercial background and experience of working in Asia, currently serving on the board of a FTSE 100 company. There aren’t many men with that CV, but this was the brief given to headhunters seeking the first female non-executive director for FTSE 250 company Balfour Beatty earlier this year. If such a person exists, they have yet to find her. In the end, the contractor had to look overseas and outside the industry — Canadian Maureen Kempston Darkes is a former group vice president of General Motors and a lawyer by training. Since 2011’s Davies Report highlighted the under-representation of women in British boardrooms – just 12.5% of the boards of FTSE 100 companies were female, and it would take more than 70 years to achieve gender parity at the current rate of change – there has been progress, but construction still lags behind other industries. As Balfour Beatty’s experience shows, there just aren’t that many senior women coming up through the ranks, and those who have made it almost always have an HR, finance or marketing background. In this piece for Construction Manager magazine, I asked how companies can ensure a ready supply of female board members for the future – without resorting to (whisper it) positive discrimination.

Lonely at the top

On a Wednesday afternoon in early August, Julie Fadden was walking around the streets of Speke and Garston with her staff, talking to her tenants and resolving issues on her estates. The chief executive of South Liverpool Housing was doing what she does on the first Wednesday afternoon of every month – even though her father had died early that morning. This is an extreme example of what sets the chief executive in a housing organisation apart from their staff, but it does shed some light on why the chief executives in Inside Housing’s salary survey are paid so much more than their employees. I spoke to them to find out how they earn their six-figure salaries.

How not to get into a fight with a brickie

Before I wrote this piece for Construction Manager, I struggled to picture a room of builders discussing their feelings and filling in personality tests. But a growing number of contracting firms are using exactly these methods to help staff win friends and influence people on site. I spoke to the owners of some of the muddiest boots in the business to find out whether you can really teach site management in a classroom, and compiled a handy quiz to help readers identify their own management style.

Macclesfield Vice

Before I spoke to Mike Walmsley, I didn’t know Special Chief Inspectors existed. But although Walmsley’s police career takes place out of hours, it’s very real indeed. By day, you’ll find him on a building site in Macclesfield managing the construction of a new primary school; during his evenings and weekends, he chases criminals, hunts for stolen cars and keeps the peace in the uniform of Greater Manchester Police. And, he admits, it is just as exciting as it looks on the television: “It doesn’t stop. You can go down and work any time, there’ll always be something happening. I’ve been to fights, murders, pursuits. I’ve chased people on foot and in the car, through city centres, through fields, through people’s back gardens. If it was easy all the time, I don’t think I’d be into it.” The full interview appears in Construction Manager.