Site Manager Academy: 10 questions with Gary Wigglesworth

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Site Manager Academy: 10 questions with Gary Wigglesworth

The ODGroup Site Manager Academy (SMA) provides ex-military personnel the opportunity to train to become successful Site Managers, all while they work and learn on the job from OD’s best. Our programme provides participants with essential knowledge and on-the-job training, empowering them to grow in their careers. Gary Wigglesworth is one of our current trainees. We sat down with him to find out how the experience has been for him…

  • Can you tell me a bit about the SMA and what you learned?

To be honest, I’ve come into this cold, essentially. I know some of the other site manager trainees have worked in construction-related roles before. I’ve worked as a logistics manager, but this has been an eye-opener for me. What I’ve learned is how much goes on behind the scenes. Before I started, I understood there’d be paperwork relating to Health and Safety but there’s also the procedure, the RAMS, there’s a procedure for everything -and everything has to be in place. There’s also the back and forth you have with trades and managing everyone on site and the areas they need to access. There’s a lot I’ve had to learn.

  • What was the journey that got you to OD and into the SMA?

After I left the military, I was working in the film industry in the location department. I worked on The Crown and Bridgerton and some films as well. It’s essentially site-managing. You go in and set up the location for all the different trades before the filming starts. You’ll have the electricians, the GRIP, the producers who all need their own areas, so we’d enter the location first, hoard it off, make sure everything is safe. You have to make sure all the paperwork is in order. There’re a lot of logistics that need to be managed. The nature of the industry is that the work isn’t consistent and I needed some more stability so I started working with a company called ex-mil recruitment. I’d was on their books, looking for jobs when, by fluke, this job came up.
I’d thought about doing construction jobs before but I was still figuring out a way in. I knew what I wanted to do, but also practically speaking I had to look at what I could do, so doing the training while working was a perfect fit for me.

  • What has been the most interesting part of the SMA for you?

It’s the interacting with trades. Like I said, it’s all new to me so I’ve had to learn who does what and how they do it. I’ve learned how air conditioning units are installed and what a fan coil unit is and how everything fits together. You have to know about what everybody does and how they work so we can manage the process.

  • You mentioned that you spent time in the military. How long were you there for?

24 years. I joined as a basic driver, then became a driving instructor, then a fuel manager, then a logistics manager towards the end of my time there. When I say a basic driver – my first job was driving a truck with a 2 million pound tornado engine on it from The North of Scotland to the South of Wales as a 19 year old. Then toward the end of my military career I was Fuels Manager in Afghanistan, running the fuel on Kabul airfield, refuelling military aircraft and MC aircraft.

  • Do you think there are things that you learned in the army that have been useful skills when working on site? 

Yes, paperwork. 100%. I’ve been given a lot of the paperwork tasks on-site because of my experience.

  • Which project are you currently working on?

It’s a full refurb of floor 3 and the partial refurb of floor 2 of [a confidential client’s] premises in Canary Wharf. We have live trading floors, both above and below us so we have to be careful of noisy works during the day. No noisy works can take place after 7am and before 7pm which usually means no drilling into the ceiling slab or the floor slab during that time.

  • Does that mean you have to do quite a lot of the work outside of regular work hours?

Yes, we now have a night manager there, but there have been times when he’s not been able to be there so I’ve started 7am and finished at 9pm. I get home at 11.30, go to bed at 12 and then back up at 5am-  back into work, which can be quite a lot but it’s important to get the job done.

  • Now that you’ve completed the training and you’re a site manager, what do you hope to do in the future?

I’d like to start my level 6 because I want to get as many accreditations as possible. I find that doing courses not only helps you understand your role but also what other people have to do. For example, to understand more about sustainability and the monitoring we do here. As a Site Manager I think it’s very important to understand how to run a site sustainably and to monitor everything correctly and make sure you’re not only focussing on your little bit.

  • Absolutely. Sustainability needs to be at the forefront of everything we are doing now. Is there anything else that particularly interests you in the whole process of a project?

Yes, I’m also really interested in some of the design processes and the different software they use. In my spare time, I’ve learned some 3D modelling in CAD and learned to create 3D representations of space in Blender. I really enjoy the tech side of things.

  • Overall was the Site Manager Academy a positive experience for you?

Yes, I’ve really been thrown in the deep end but it’s all part of the fun. I really enjoy the whole process. I’m looking forward to working on other sites so I can experience working with different people to learn how they work and learn as much as I can from them.

It’s also been very enjoyable starting from the beginning on a project and seeing it all the way through, working with the different contractors and understanding how they work. I enjoy that we’re all working together towards the same goal and how we get through the challenges along the way together.

Thank you Gary, it’s great to have you in the team!

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