Site Manager Academy: 10 questions with Jermal Hill

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Site Manager Academy: 10 questions with Jermal Hill

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. Jermal Hill is the first of our current 5 trainees to complete the programme since its inception in October 2021. We sat down with Jermal to find out how the experience has been for him…

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

I think it’s a great way to get into the industry and to start learning as a Site Manager because you’re working on-site straight away in an Assistant Manager role, not only taking responsibility for subcontractors and Health & Safety aspects but you’re learning the actual processes that go into site set up and winning jobs. Before I joined I didn’t know anything about tendering or pre-con or design so it’s so interesting to know that there are so many aspects that go into a project because on the trades, where I was before, you just turn up, get told ‘work in these areas,’ you do it, you finish, that’s it. It’s nice to get a bigger picture and have a more in-depth involvement in coordinating the project. Also, there is an office/work culture which is great to be a part of, it’s not the same as being in the army but I have good, longstanding relationships with colleagues whereas, on the tools, there’s quite a quick turnover. You work with people, get to know them and then you don’t see each other again after the job is done.

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

When I left the army I moved to Birmingham and started doing groundworks and labouring. Then I was taken on by an interiors company that do everything from carpentry and joinery, plasterboard walls, fire-stopping etcetera and so that was what I fell into. I did courses with them on dry lining and fire-stopping. It was on-the-job training. I ended up moving down to London with them. After a few years doing that I did a supervisors course, so I started that role on-site handling the fire register, so when we were doing the fire-stopping for floors, I’d be the one who goes around and checks some of the other firestoppers’ work to make sure it had been done correctly. I also did things like towers and certain health and safety aspects because I was PASMA trained. I did the mute checks, PASMA tower checks and make sure everything was signed off and built correctly. After awhile, a friend of mine, told me about OD and the SMA so I thought I’d throw my hat in the ring and send my CV across, and here I am now.

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

I personally enjoy the site set up, making sure all the right signage is there, that the site was looking like it should. I like speaking to the contractors and seeing where they’re at and whether they’re happy with their works. You end up doing a bit of mediation; I have to mediate sometimes between tenants’ expectations, clients’ expectations, sub-contractors’ expectations, and also our expectations. Sometimes there are clashes and it’s part of my job to sort it out and make sure no one is too inconvenienced by anything so we can get the job done. So honestly, I enjoy all of it. It’s faster-paced and there’s more homework in terms of understanding a project and it’s phases, the deadlines and the programme. It’s easy when you’re a subcontractor, you have one job, you have a set amount of time to do it in, and you’re done. Whereas, as a Site Manager, I have to plan for the subcontractors, get permits in place and also notify the tenants and everyone that needs to know what’s going on, so they know where we’re working and when, so there are no surprises.

  • It sounds complicated?

It can be but it just takes a lot of organisation, planning ahead and communication. I have to make sure everyone knows what’s going on and if there are any changes or hiccups so programmes are kept updated and we can get the right labour on-site and keep things progressing as they should.

  • Our SMA trainees almost all have a background in the military. How long were you in the army for?

I was in the army for just under 9 years. I joined straight after secondary school so I was 16.

I trained for about 1.5 years, then I joined the Third Battalion, the parachute regiment when I was 18. It was a good experience. I definitely wouldn’t change it. I’ve got lifelong friends that are like family to me.

  • Do you think everything you learned in the army have been useful skills when working on site? You have to be very disciplined on site, do you feel like your army training has helped with those aspects of working on site?

Definitely, it would often be easy to think ‘we want to get things done quickly’ so let things slide, but as soon as you let one thing slide it is when something is most likely to go wrong so you really have to do your due diligence, ensure there the correct PPE is available and being worn, safety steps are in place for the task, permits are done, all the RAMS are signed, inductions are done so that everyone is protected and working as safely as possible.

  • Have you learned all of the procedures and how to get permits etc, while on the SMA?
  • Yes, I had experience with permits but not from this perspective, I’ve learned about the lead times – some permits can take 72 hours to get approved which is quite a lot of time when you have contractors ready to work, so that all needs to be factored into the planning.
  • You’re currently working on Project Heron at Fleet Place House in Holborn. Is this the project you’ve been on the whole time you’ve been doing the Site Manager Academy?

Yes, I was on this project since it started. So from setting up site and I’ll be here until the job finishes. I’ve worked on a few other ODCreate projects which were great to learn on and to get a solid base of OD procedures. Those jobs are D&B so usually a smaller scale and quite fast paced.

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

I’m happy accruing more knowledge and experience as a Site Manager and then I’ll be doing a level 6 diploma in Construction Management that I’ll be starting in the next few months. Once I’ve got that knowledge and I’m completely comfortable running a site on my own then in the next 5 years or so, stepping up to project management. It’s not a job where you want to throw yourself too far into the deep end, you have to really make sure you’ve got the foundations first but it’s something for the to-do list in the future.

Thank you Jermal, we look forward to seeing what you do next!

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