It’s been nearly a week since the Construction Manager of the Year Awards 2019 – a wonderful, celebratory evening which is the highlight of my time with the CIOB so far!

My congratulations – again – to Joseph McNeil MCIOB. He was gold medallist in the refurbishment category and went on to pick up the overall winner trophy and the Construction Manager of the Year title. His story is remarkable for many reasons, not least because the winning project was the first on which he had taken the lead.

Joseph’s award came as the result of his work on a complex refurbishment project at 120 Oxford Street, London. This was tricky from the start as it was awarded to Sir Robert McAlpine two weeks after site start, following the failure of the more competitively priced contractor that had originally won the tender. Joseph took on the project manager role without any prior knowledge of the scheme and with the lower storeys of the building already vacated, hoardings up and the client keen to get the works restarted as fast as possible.

Among the other well-deserved winning entries were first-time entrants the Watkin Jones Group, with the gold medal for the residential over 7 storeys category going to Richard Ingram MCIOB. His work on a 27-floor scheme, with complex landlocked-site logistics, a retained facade, three clients and a large project team - 140-strong at its peak – seriously impressed the judges.

Professor Charles Egbu, the CIOB’s President, said on the night: we are "proud to trumpet your successes and celebrate your excellence. We're passionate about the construction industry, and we're continually improving and expanding what we do to make sure the profession thrives."

It was a wonderfully inspiring night and a privilege to meet the finalists and many of the competition’s previous winners.

I have been inspired to the extent that I want to use this platform for as much good as possible. The range of entrants this year, resulting in 80 projects making it to the finalists’ stage, with construction managers from a diverse age range, long-term supporters of the competition and first-time entrants, has been good - but we can do better.

I will take nothing away from the winners – they were all deserving and rightly recognised for their work. I was proud to applaud each of them as they made their way to the stage to receive their medals.

What I would like to see next year, however, is much more diversity among the finalists, including more women and more representatives from minority groups.

The CIOB was called out over the weekend on the fact that no finalists were women. As far as I have managed to ascertain (this year’s CMYA process started prior to my appointment) there were no entries from female construction managers this year. I want to understand why.

There are a couple of points to remember about where we are with CMYA. This particular competition is focussed on the construction management profession, rather than the breadth of our membership. It has been put to me that it’s a question of numbers – we recently spent some time looking at the gender split in the industry and women make up around 13% of construction sector workers, a statistic that flatters somewhat when you consider only around 1-2% of women are working ‘on-site’ – and it is this 1-2% from which we’re trying to solicit entries for CMYA.

And while I acknowledge that it’s a challenge because of the numbers, I believe there are still questions for us to ask and opportunities to explore to raise the profile of the up-and-coming generation of construction workers and unsung heroes from the construction management world.

There are plans to review CMYA before opening the 2020 competition. The CIOB senior management team has discussed widening the scope of the competition to recognise other roles in the industry. I have also advocated a discussion on the diversity of the judging panel, the steps in the entry process and an examination of any area where unconscious bias could slip in. However, I don’t want to take anything away from our current judges who do a tremendous job – the time they give to helping with the process is truly valued.

We’ve also talked about SMEs as we don’t get a lot of submissions from what is an incredibly important part of the industry. Again, there are seemingly obvious reasons – less resources and capacity to complete the entry process – but nonetheless worth exploring to understand their perspective as fully as possible.

So although I believe that CMYA is an incredible event and has, over the last 41 years, shone its spotlight on worthy winners, I want to make sure that the light we shine on the industry is directed at representatives from the range of incredible individuals who make up the construction community.

It’s critical to me that we undertake this work and we call out the areas where we might be inadvertently contributing to the under-representation of certain sectors to our industry. But I also issue this call to action to all members and supporters in positions of influence to encourage a more diverse range of applicants.  

I want to give the last word to our winner, Joseph McNeil, who said when receiving the Construction Manager of the Year Award for 2019: “… the ladies on my table were instrumental in the success of my project; certainly, three of the most influential people on my work are present and I want to thank them.”

You can find more information about all the winners on our CMYA web site: https://www.cmya.co.uk/2019-winners/