Transforming futures with a career in construction

On World Youth Skills Day, think construction for skills development


When young people are at school leaving age, they’re encouraged to think about A’ Levels, the traditional types of degrees (humanities, science, maths), and future careers such as law, accountancy, medicine, or teaching. All worthy and exciting paths to follow, but at Walter Lilly, we say:

“Think Construction!”

We may be biased, but we believe construction studies and on site experience are the best ways for youngsters to develop skills for an impressive and varied career.

A career where you could:

  • Manage the build of a skyscraper, school, or hospital.
  • Influence the design of a new art gallery or cathedral.
  • Positively impact the sustainability of an eco-friendly housing development (and the future energy bills of residents).
  • Rescue a landmark heritage building falling into disrepair.

To celebrate World Youth Skills Day (developed by the U.N. in 2014 and held annually on 15 July), we’ve spoken to five Walter Lilly trainees and apprentices about their studies and careers, and the skills they have been developing to transform their futures.

Please meet:

  • Cara Eley (Trainee Site Manager and currently studying for a BSc in Construction Engineering Management at Loughborough University)
  • Hannah Tyres (Assistant Surveyor and currently studying a BSc in Quantity Surveying and Commercial Management at the University of Westminster)
  • Harrison Burgoine (Assistant Site Manager and currently studying for a BSc in Construction Management at London South Bank University)
  • Joshua Bache-Haley (Trainee Site Manager and currently studying for a BSc in Construction Engineering Management at Loughborough University)
  • Oliver Ballard (Trainee Surveyor and currently studying for a BSc in Quantity Surveying and Commercial Management at the University of Westminster).


What made you choose a career in construction?

Cara: When I was at school, I drove past a new build housing estate daily and was always interested in watching its progress. It made me think how great it would be to build something. It was inspiring!

Harrison: I’ve always had a love of architecture and engineering. I did think about Architecture for my degree, but Construction Management enables me to understand many different trades. It’s varied and keeps lots of doors open for me.

Hannah: My father is in the industry, so I’ve always found it fascinating. There’s a massive variety in construction, too: it’s part office/part construction site. Plus, there are so many aspects to it. I’m currently studying Quantity Surveying and Commercial Management, but I could be a design planner one day or move into architecture. So, I’ve been developing skills that will give me options.

Oliver: I think it’s a bit of a family affair for me! My uncle and step-father are in construction, and I’ve always been interested in what they do.


How has the theory learnt at university helped your work placement at Walter Lilly, or how have the skills developed at Walter Lilly helped with your university studies?

Hannah: In September, I’ll be working at Walter Lilly and doing day-release at university  for the final year of my degree. The on-site experience at Walter Lilly has been crucial for my studies. I learn better through seeing, doing and experiencing than just reading textbooks. My construction skills and interpersonal skills have grown in this regard, which will help with my degree.

Josh: I spent my first two years at university learning a broad range of all the processes that make up the construction industry and essential topics such as health and safety and learning how to be a good manager. This last year, I’ve been on placement at Walter Lilly where I’ve worked on activities such as piling and underpinning. The two ways of learning complement each other, so I’m developing a well-rounded set of skills.

Harrison: The day-to-day experience and skills I’ve gained at Walter Lilly whilst studying has been great. It has put all my university learning into context, making the theory real.


It’s World Youth Skills Day, so what skills do you think you’ve gained on your construction course or at Walter Lilly that will transform your future?

Josh: There are so many! My management skills have improved because I’ve had to manage subcontractors. I’ve also learnt how to communicate and deal with people – ensuring everyone is happy and calm, so the job gets done. I’ve become more assertive, plus my organisation and efficiency skills have increased. I’ve developed my skills as a team worker. Plus, my public speaking skills have grown. Finally, I’m better at problem-solving now, and my attention to detail (crucial when looking at building plans) has increased.

Oliver: I’ve never been the loudest person, and I’m not naturally outspoken, but on a construction site, you must speak up! So, I’ve developed better communication skills.

Cara: Being on a construction site has taught me how to solve problems and make decisions in a way that I might not have been able to before. I’ve also learnt team and communication skills as you need to be able to communicate and be part of a team in construction.

Training on site in my placement year has helped prepare me for a career. I’m more confident – for example, with decision making – because I’ve had support from Walter Lilly team colleagues. I wouldn’t be nervous entering the workforce now. I might have been shy without this experience. I have more confidence in the world of work because of the skills I’ve been learning in construction.


Between now and 2025, the construction industry needs an additional 217 thousand workers. However, there’s a skills shortage. What could be done to fill this gap?

Josh: Push the advantages and variations of construction more at schools. Perhaps inspire people with visits to construction sites so they can see what it’s like.

Talk about apprenticeships too. There’s still a stigma around apprenticeships, but some fantastic schemes exist – such as the one at Walter Lilly. Of course, being paid whilst you learn is also beneficial.

Hannah: School leavers should learn about opportunities in construction. The teachers too! People automatically think of going into business, marketing, or office-based jobs. But construction offers so much variety, and I’m not sure people realise this.

Cara: I agree with Hannah. Educate students about the skills development and benefits of working in construction. It’s a great career with lots of avenues to explore. For example, just because you study construction management doesn’t mean you can’t become a designer, planner or contracts manager one day. There’s lots of flexibility. Lots of options.


Do you have any thoughts on whether young people are currently equipped with enough skills for careers? Or whether equipping young people with skills will shift the dial in favour of sustainable development?

Oliver: No, I think there’s much more to be done to give young people skills for the workplace, setting up their own businesses, or learning about sustainability.

Josh: I agree with Oliver. Especially concerning sustainability. This is important for our future and giving young people the skills to develop sustainably could be pushed more at school. Because I’m part of Walter Lilly and because I’ve been studying construction and sustainable development, the skills we need to make it happen have become ingrained in me. But this could be pushed earlier with children.


What are your plans? Where do you see yourself in 15+ years?

Harrison: I’d like to be in the corporate side of construction, at head office perhaps

Oliver: I’ve been at Walter Lilly for under a year and have seen many people – including young people – get promoted through the ranks. It’s inspiring, and I’d like to use the skills I’ve been given (and the skills I’ll continue to gain) to do the same.

Hannah: It’s hard to know. In the short term, I want to finish my degree, get my chartership, and stay with Walter Lilly. But, one day, I might also want to use the skills I’ve developed to work abroad or set up a business with someone. I feel equipped to do lots of things now.


Transform your skills for the future with Walter Lilly

Construction is a large and stable industry. People will always need new buildings, and existing buildings will require refurbishment and new purposes, so there will always be a demand for construction industry workers.

The size and diversity in the industry also means there is a huge range of exciting and rewarding construction jobs to choose from.

When it comes to talent, Walter Lilly takes the long view. We invest heavily in training and education, nurturing our next generation of employees to give their careers the best possible start, to ensure the long-term growth of the company, and to help plug the skills shortage in the construction industry. At Walter Lilly, we are proud to be supporting over 10% of our employees who are carrying out a form of further education.

We’ve been sponsoring construction courses at Loughborough University since 1998 and have built a close relationship with the Civil and Building Department of the University.

Walter Lilly also supports trainees through their NVQs and degrees on a part-time basis from a number of London universities through our day release programme, providing the chance to learn practical experiences as well as academics.

Do you want to develop skills to transform your future?

Think Construction!

Get in touch with us for more information,






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