I have just been reading an article in the July edition of “Building Engineer” – the monthly Journal of the Chartered Association of Building Engineers (CABE).  I and all of our colleagues around the UK have for many years been proud of the range and breadth of topics covered by the Journal, which, in my opinion continues to punch above its weight.

One particular article caught my eye this month.  It was penned by Jayne Hall, who is currently a Vice-President of the CABE and also a Past President of LABC, the national body for Local Authority Building Control in the UK.  Jayne has recently also joined the Board of Trustees of the CABE Benevolent Fund, of which I am also proud to be a Trustee.

Jayne’s Journal article was explaining that the CABE Chief Executive Dr Gavin Dunn has asked her to take on the role of the CABE’s “Diversity Champion”.  Jayne’s article reflects on the inalienable fact that the Construction Industry, even after years of effort, still has a poor record in regard to Equality and Diversity.

Jayne makes the observation, based on a recent professional conference in Somerset she had attended, that “…it was clear that the construction professions, and engineering in particular, are still dominated by the traditional white middle class male – also mostly well into middle age too…”

Okay, she just described me, but I do take Jayne’s point and I have to agree with her.  During the six years that I sat on the Board of Directors of the CABE in the mid-2000s (at that stage it was still just called the ABE) there were typically about fifteen or so elected Directors and Honorary Officers, of whom I cannot recall there ever being more than three women elected to the Board at any one time.  But to be fair, that merely reflected the proportion of women standing for election … though one can only wonder how much a lack of encouragement to our female members may have restricted the numbers willing to stick their head above the parapet?

Similarly, I regularly sit on interview panels assessing Candidates for admission to Chartered level Membership of the CABE and the ratio of male to female candidates in my experience, is well in excess of 10:1.  And yet, two of the four most impressive Candidates I can recall interviewing over the past years have been female (take a bow Karen and Saira, you were both excellent).  It has been suggested that women have to try harder to justify their place in the industry, which is truly a shame.

I chuckled at some of the examples Jayne quoted in her article though, of “reasons” (i.e. pitiful excuses) for the lack of women employed in high level positions, which apparently have ranged from “…the board room being an uncomfortable place for women…” to “…the issues discussed at board level are very complex…”  Oh, deary me….

Now, the Taylor Tuxford Associates Board meetings typically cover a whole range of issues ranging through: technical difficulties regarding ongoing projects, to establishing our Corporate policy with regard to the General Data Protection Regulations, to where we’re going for the Christmas Party.  My own experience has been that none of the issues arising at any of our Board meetings have caused any of my female colleagues to fall off their chairs with a bad case of “the vapours”… that only tends to happen when we run out of wine at the Christmas Party, and isn’t just restricted to my female colleagues!

For the record, I am pleased to say that three-quarters of the total number of employees and two-thirds of the construction-related technical team at Taylor Tuxford Associates are female and moreover, I am proud to have the opportunity to work with them.

Alright, so there are only four of us altogether and maybe, as Amy always says, you can prove anything you want to with statistics, but we honestly are trying our best in that regard and, like the CABE, we are punching above our weight when it comes to gender diversity in the workplace.

To finish on a serious note though, the construction industry still has an awfully long way to go in this regard.  It is still a novelty to find a female on a construction site – whether in a supervisory or technical capacity or on the tools – and in part, this is likely related to the apparent tendency for blokes not to accept women co-workers as they would another bloke and the (understandable) reluctance of women not to want to expose themselves to the often-misogynistic attitudes of their male co-workers.

The place to make a start on addressing the diversity imbalance is in our Schools.  Until such time as pupils in the advanced stages of preparing for their GCSEs are persuaded – irrespective of their gender, ethnic background or of any inherent disability – that Construction as a career will be a worthwhile thing to do, then we are still going to be having this discussion in a further 20 years’ time.

If there are any Schools out there in the South Yorkshire area that would like someone to come along and give a presentation to their pupils about a career in construction, we will be very happy to talk to you about that.

 

 

Rhys Taylor
July 2018

 

All practising professional engineers, surveyors and architectural designers are required to undertake a certain amount of what is referred to as “Continuing Professional Development” or “CPD” for short.  For example, as a Chartered Building Engineer and Fellow of the Chartered Association of Building Engineers (CABE), I am required to undertake a minimum of 35 hours per year of CPD.

 

Similar requirements are placed upon professionals in other disciplines / industries and the whole point is that one is expected to strive to maintain one’s knowledge of the latest developments and current thinking in the working environment.  We would all hope that our Family Doctor will be up to speed on the latest methods of diagnosis and treatment of whatever ailments we may suffer from and the same applies in the construction industry.

 

CPD can take many forms.  The importance of keeping abreast of the latest techniques for design and analysis are obvious, along with being aware of any recent legal cases – the judgements applied to which can impact particularly on how as an appointed Surveyor, one deals with for example, disputes under the Party Wall etc. Act 1996.

 

CPD can also include “horizon broadening activities” and the list here is as long as one cares to make it.  As an example, our newest recruit Amy has been shadowing me on several site inspections lately.  Although Amy is primarily a Geotechnical Engineer (translation – “a Geologist who has been drawn to the ‘dark side’ of Engineering”) the experience of seeing how others deal with boundary disputes, structural inspections and measurement surveys of buildings will be invaluable in improving not only her usefulness to the company but also, the breadth of her understanding of other elements of Building Engineering as they interface with her own, specialised areas of work.

 

I have the honour and pleasure to regularly sit on a panel of experienced professionals, interviewing prospective members of the CABE to determine that they have met the required standards of experience, knowledge and professionalism to be accepted as chartered members of the Association.  One of the topics raised and discussed in the interview process is the candidate’s record of CPD attendance – not just in terms of the hours spent undergoing CPD, but also the quality of that CPD and its relevance to their work.

 

But, I honestly cannot remember ever being asked by a Client for details of my own CPD record at any stage during a project, let alone before they engage my services.  Now, one might argue that the Client is entitled to take it for granted that, as a practising member of a professional organisation they will be on top of their obligations regarding CPD.  It has been my experience that not all professionals take this as seriously as we would wish to believe.

 

For our Clients’ comfort and peace of mind, I can confirm that all of the technical staff at Taylor Tuxford Associates either meet or comfortably exceed the requirements of their professional bodies in terms of the hours of CPD they carry out each year.

 

I have just completed and submitted my CPD “return” for 2017 for 50 hours of CPD completed.  Over the past three calendar years, my personal cumulative CPD attendances have been in excess of 190 hours in total.  This includes some community work – for example, assisting local charitable organisations and groups with their construction-related issues and projects, including Bold Adventures in Bolsterstone and the Maltby Miners Memorial Trust, for whom we have been providing architectural and structural design assistance.  We have also previously assisted on three projects locally for the BBCTV DIY SOS programme – it all helps.

 

Significantly, however, the CPD Hours that we register do not include time spent on other community work for non-construction related causes – primarily in our case, this would be the time that Michelle, Amy, Anne and me spend on fund raising activities for local and national charities through the entertainments group BluCrew – for details see elsewhere on our website on visit www.facebook.com/BluCrew/

 

Rhys Taylor
Feburary 2018

 

Write a blog post, they said, it’ll be easy, they said… So, uh, yeah, hi, I’m Amy, newest recruit for Taylor Tuxford Associates. I’m going to be the company Engineering Geologist, social media wrangler and have the dubious distinction of being Rhys and Anne’s daughter

I studied Geology at the University of Manchester for my undergraduate degree after which I promptly discovered that no matter how much fun it might have been, there are surprisingly few jobs that use a straight geology degree!  And it was fun… or at least that’s the word the lecturers were using when we were halfway up a mountain in Snowdonia and the rain was coming in sideways. There was also the point at which my flatmates were convinced I was doing a degree in joining the dots and colouring in, but I’m not bitter about that.

I took a break from all things geology related for a year or so after finishing my undergraduate degree, before starting a Masters’ degree in Engineering Geology at the University of Leeds. Engineering geology is essentially geology but with less rocks and more soils and maths.

As an aside, the difference between engineering geology and geotechnical engineering is essentially the amount of maths involved. Engineering geologists are geologists that have been swayed to the dark side of engineering; geotechnical engineers are often civil engineers that have seen the light. Both are convinced they are superior to the other and both are kinda looked down on by “proper” geologists and engineers.

It later turned out that an Engineering Geology Masters’ degree is basically a gateway to academia and I was lured even further to the dark side by the promise of funding for a PhD.

In related news, I may have lost control of this metaphor.

Anyway, I moved to Sheffield, started work in the Civil & Structural Engineering department of the University of Sheffield and was made to interact with Engineers on a daily basis. Having grown up with a Structural Engineer parent, I was well practised in distracting them by offering large amounts of tea and biscuits and, if necessary, scaring them away by discussing such things as Miller Indices and geophysics.

Working for a PhD is a full time job in which you become more than a little obsessed over a single topic and slowly develop a case of imposter syndrome. You learn a lot about your topic and learn even more about all the things you don’t know, leading to a constant feeling that you’re a fraud and that you don’t belong there and that someone, somewhere must have made a mistake. I’m assured that everyone in our research group felt that way at some point.

But I am now one of only a handful of people in the UK and Ireland that can even vaguely consider themselves an expert in expansive pyritic mudrocks… which is nice.

I’m going to be working with Rhys and Michelle on the Geotechnical side of things within the company, as well as taking on some of the design and site investigation work.

 

Amy Taylor

 January 2018