Careers

This much I know: ‘Health and safety is so important’

John Gray, Chairman, Diamond Build Group, tells CM about how he got started in construction, what he learned along the way and the advice he would give someone starting out.

What made you go into construction?

By chance, I lived near a lady whose son was a quantity surveyor. To be honest, he was earning a lot of money and I wanted to do the same!

What do you remember from your first project? 

I was working on a major new build project in Blackfriars in 1961. It was only my second week of work and the carpenter was involved in a fatal accident when a steel fixer dropped a bolt from the top floor.  This incident made an indelible impression on me and is why health and safety is so important in everything we do.

What was the best advice you were given?

Never take anything for granted.

“You can only learn so much from courses, books and the internet. Nothing really compares to working full time on a construction site with experienced construction professionals.”

John Gray, Diamond Build Group

Who do you most admire in the construction industry, past or present? 

My original partner, Patrick Joseph Diamond. He came off a farm in Ireland to live in the UK in the 1970s. He learned to be a plasterer, how to control building trades and run small jobs. I was a surveyor manager and we worked for the same firm.

In 1977, we started a company together doing small conversion works and then built up a business which I now run carrying out many different types of work under the Diamond Build Group umbrella.

Which project you worked on are you most proud of?

Our first ever development. Thinking of the idea, employing 25 specialist consultants plus a multitude of specialist trades to deal with the whole process and achieve completion, is something I’m still really proud of.

What advice would you give to someone starting in construction today?

Get an apprenticeship which enables you to go to university part time over five years, or a trade apprenticeship allowing you to progress through the NVQ route, ensuring you earn while you learn.

What one thing would you change to make careers in construction more appealing? 

The way we talk about construction and the opportunities it offers. A career in construction is the chance to work in a modern, high-tech industry where every job and every day is different. Those messages don’t always come across.

We also need to stress the opportunities for management degrees which enable people to work anywhere in the world.

What’s the most valuable training you’ve received and why?

You can only learn so much from courses, books and the internet. Nothing really compares to working full time on a construction site with experienced construction professionals.

Do you have a motto that applies to your work and if so, what is it? 

Building quality on time with health and safety in mind.

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