BTEC Higher Nationals Case Study: Ben Samuel
After completing a level 3 apprenticeship in joinery, Ben Samuel studied a Higher National Diploma in Construction at Hull College. As well as working for Hobson and Porter in Yorkshire as a Site Manager, he is currently completing a BSc in Construction Management. We spoke to him about his education and career journey up to this point.
Did you always want to go into construction?
I completed my A-levels in Law and Economics and, I initially wanted to do a degree in sports science. However, when researching career prospects in my local area (East Riding, Yorkshire), I realised that my options might be limited. I didn’t want to become a PE teacher, and so I decided to go down a different route instead.
My dad was self-employed, and so I'd always helped him out in his construction business at weekends and during school holidays, doing property extensions etc. I felt motivated by the financial benefits and differentiation of working in construction and so I settled on a Level 3 Joinery Apprenticeship, to be able to learn more of the theory behind what I was doing.
Although I learnt a lot as part of my joinery course, it did not feel particularly challenging, but it was a great stepping-stone to help me realise that I did want to pursue a career in the sector. I then decided to move into my HNC to help further my construction career. I started at Hobson & Porter in my HND year; I had one tutor who was particularly supportive and encouraged me to apply for a site management role.
Tell me a little bit more about your role at Hobson & Porter
I joined the company 3 years ago, and I’ve worked my way up through several positions to become a site manager. I think my quick progression was helped through the work that I did with my dad – this helped me see the process that projects go through from start to finish. Although I’m now working on much wider scale projects, the theory is the same.
I typically work an office-based role, although site walk rounds, quality control and health and safety monitoring give you a great deal of on-site time to assess the projects progress. Hobson & Porter are predominantly a management firm, and so we work with a number of different organisations, which has enabled me to work with a variety of stakeholders.
There can be any number of challenges that I face on a day-to-day basis, for example:
Assessing and reviewing construction drawings to ensure they are right are accurate. If not, this then has to go back to be redesigned, which can impact timelines.
Supply of materials always needs to be considered in advance.
Logistics on site and how materials can be stored and transported.
Checking if health and safety rules are being adhered to.
Ensuring the project is on program.
Quality of workmanship on site is of sound quality.
Problem-solving is therefore a key part of my role! I think it’s really important to observe, question and learn these skills from those who have been in the industry for a while, and I’ve had some really great mentors at Hobson & Porter.
I can tell that you are clearly passionate about the sector, what have you particularly enjoyed working on?
What I love about my job is that I’ve been able to work on some really varied projects; from flower manufacturing plants to leisure centre refurbishments to yeast process plants - I learn something new each time. I’ve been able to learn about specialist and innovative machinery, which all helps my exposure within the sector.
My favourite project has definitely been the first one that I worked on with Hobson & Porter – the redevelopment of my local leisure centre. I had many memories of spending time as a child in the leisure centre, and so it was exciting to be able to play a part in its redevelopment and improvements.
What lead you to do a degree?
I don’t necessarily need a degree to do my current role, however it is becoming more common for site managers, and so I decided to complete one to future-proof my career. I was lucky that my company funded my studies, which helps financially and also means I am given study leave whilst working.
I felt that my Higher National was a good step-up to my top-up degree, in terms of the academic theory. With the impact of Covid-19, last year I studied online, and I did miss the interactive elements of learning; it’s a very hands-on job and I think you really need to learn certain elements in person, to fully understand the whole picture.
I think it will feel strange once I’ve handed in my dissertation at Christmas – I’ll have a whole lot of extra time on my hands!
What’s next on the cards?
I’m currently a student member with both the Chartered Institute of Building, and the Chartered Association of Building Engineers, and I’ll look to gain full membership once I finish my degree – I’m looking forward to having a title in my name! I find it particularly useful to have access to e-learning, and news articles, to stay up to date with what is going on in the sector.
The next progression steps for me would be to move into a senior site manager or project manager position. I hope to continue working on a variety of projects and with new technologies, to continue my professional development.
And finally, is there any advice you’d like to give to current Higher National students?
Enjoy learning new skills and don’t be afraid to ask and observe others - nothing can beat experience, especially in an industry such as construction.
No one is born with knowledge, so push yourself to gain as much as you can, qualifications such as Higher Nationals provide key studies to improve knowledge and open avenues to further your knowledge.