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Paving the Way in School Build Magazine

Speaking to School Building magazine, John Farley, Framework Manager at Fusion21, has provided an insight into his construction career spanning 25 years.

Question 1: Is your career what you envisaged when you were at school?

 Although I didn’t have a set role in mind, I knew I wanted a hands-on job where I could learn a trade. Design and technology quickly became my favourite lesson at school – I relished the opportunity to take part in a practical challenge and build something from scratch.

Question 2: What was your first job, and what did this - and other previous jobs - contribute to where you are today?

Having left school at 16 I started a four-year electrical apprenticeship with a local authority and began building up my technical expertise - learning how to carry out electrical installations and inspections in addition to completing repairs work within schools and social housing stock. My apprenticeship was a steep learning curve and I qualified as an electrician in 1997 before progressing to being a Maintenance Inspector.

I later took a role within the capital works department and learnt how to write specifications for a range of large external refurbishment projects, during this time I also completed a degree in Building Surveying.  

A subsequent move to the renewable energy sector in 2011 enabled me to further develop my skill set and I became a registered installer of solar photovoltaic panels.  

In 2013 I joined Fusion21 as a Project Manager before progressing to my current position as Framework Manager, where I lead on the delivery of our Education and Retrofit frameworks.

We have just launched our Education Modular Buildings Framework which is designed to help the sector provide cost effective and sustainable learning environments. With the framework set to go live in June 2017, it will provide a range of solutions to education providers and local authorities who are under pressure to accommodate growing student numbers.

Question 3: What do you find different about building for education and other sectors you’ve been involved in?  

The use of off-site construction is increasing in popularity within the education sector – particularly as modular building offers a faster turn-around time which is ideal when classrooms are urgently required.

This approach to construction also helps to fulfill a number of design and build criteria required by education establishments including cost-effective sustainable buildings which present lower carbon emissions than traditional builds.  

Question 4: What is the main challenge you face in work?

It is my job to help Fusion21 customers access compliant procurement services which result in the delivery of significant efficiency savings, in addition to embedding social value within procurement activities wherever possible.

In the face of market changes and the impact of Brexit on the supply chain, Fusion21 continues to deliver for our customers through engagement with small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), in addition to utilising different cost models and a two stage tendering process.

Question 5: What do you consider to be your greatest achievement (personally/professionally – you don’t have to answer both but you can if you wish)?

 I’m currently studying for a Masters in Construction Law and will complete in September 2017. It is essential to keep up to date with changes, developments and best practice within a rapidly changing industry. I have also recently completed my Chartered Institute of Procurement and Supply Diploma and hope to also study the Advanced Diploma.

Question 6: Do you think schools/universities have advantages or disadvantages over other construction sectors at this moment?

The Construction sector as a whole is still facing challenges – from continuing to address the skills shortage to experiencing intense cost pressures.

However, an increasing pupil population and a range of investment initiatives means construction within the education sector will see continued growth. 

Schools and universities also have an opportunity to use their purchasing power to generate added social value benefits – from creating training and local job opportunities to construction students gaining exposure to industry professionals.

Question 7: What advice would you give to those wishing to follow in your career footsteps?

I would recommend undertaking an apprenticeship for those wanting to learn lifelong skills - the combination of theory and practical experience is invaluable and helps to shape careers.

Question 8: Given the opportunity to take up to six months paid leave (and assuming your partner had the same), what would you do?

I’m actually a keen fishing enthusiast and would quite like to plan an around the world fishing trip – although I’m not too sure my partner would agree!