Dennis Wilson has recently been named the Construction Manager of the Year for 2015, for his work managing the redevelopment of the National Theatre whilst it was still fully operational as a working auditorium. In recognition of this, and in the light of his role model status amongst talented young members of the construction community, we've named him the first in our new series of AllAboutSchoolLeavers Ambassadors.
When I go to meet Dennis Wilson to ask him about the industry and his recent successes, I find a man who is not only exceptionally polite and welcoming, but who is looking to change the image of an industry often painted in a less than positive light.
At the sumptuously designed Lend Lease offices in Great Portland Street, we sit down to discuss the construction industry, advice and the wider nature of the job in general, starting with Dennis’ own route into the world he is now a leading figure in.
Starting out as an electrical trainee at Jenkins in 1982, he was drawn by the wide range of services that the company offered whilst completing his City & Guilds training. It was at the end of this training, with a higher salary in sight, that Dennis made the difficult decision to redouble his training and set out down the slightly different Electrical Design path.
After plying his trade at the London Borough of Hillingdon and completing this second round of education, he was advised to push into the private sector, and took up a consultancy role in what was at the time Cundall Johnston & Partners, before moving on to FHP and finally to Bovis, which would go on to become Bovis Lend Lease, and ultimately Lend Lease.
Here at Bovis, Dennis took on two huge projects, one at the Treasury and one at Dutch bank ABN AMRO, as a consultant, before taking on a new direction and the massive challenge of Project Managing the new Morgan Stanley offices.
Deciding Project Management was the right path for him to pursue, the next milestone moment for Wilson was heading up the new Rothschild Headquarters in the City, for which he was nominated for the 2012 Construction Manager of the Year.
Three years later, he managed the National Theatre project to near perfection, garnering praise from almost every sector of the industry and taking home the coveted prize for 2015. It marked another milestone in the ever-upward trajectory of Wilson’s career and recognition from the construction world for his unique achievement on the project.
It’s his attitude towards apprentices, graduates and newcomers to the company that is perhaps most striking, however. As someone at the top, it’s easy to ignore those at the bottom, but as Dennis shows me around the building, he stops to say hello to almost everyone, and the air of likeability grows.
Manners, he says, are the first thing he looks for in anyone wanting to become a part of the company. Someone who turns up looking scruffy, with their mind on other things, and who is not coming to learn and improve upon themselves, is one of the biggest no-no’s in the Lend Lease book.
On the same note, the two things he says are the best qualities for anyone looking for a job within his world, are an enthusiasm for taking up new challenges and a deep-seated willingness to learn. The talent and skill sets, Dennis suggests, can be built and nurtured, but only if the candidate wants them to be.
It’s refreshing to hear someone taking an active role in the recruitment processes, and building the links right the way through the company, and the respect that Wilson commands not only within his own company, but also on his projects, has been made abundantly clear in the testimonials he received in his award nomination.