150 school students from across the capital were given a sneak preview of the London Real Estate Forum (LREF) this lunchtime, along with the chance to mix with architects, engineers, developers and others working in the built environment. And they were told by Tony Pidgley CBE, chairman of Berkeley Group that they will ‘make the difference’ if they acquire life skills, put energy into their chosen paths, and be the best they can be.
Construction Youth Trust CEO Carol Lynch began proceedings by pointing out that construction industry jobs were ones where people can earn good money and travel the world, before introducing the Berkeley chairman.
Pidgley said he was adopted when he was only four by gypsies, who taught him life skills, common sense, and manners – something which lived with him all his life. Pidgley would write down the family’s money from ‘horse trading’ in a little black book with his father, his first experience of a balance sheet. 'And I still follow that "cash is king" to this day' he said.
The family would discuss and negotiate cash offers for horses, and these life skills and elements of ‘practical common sense’, plus ‘energy’ were the secrets of his career. Pidgley decided he wanted to work for himself, had three jobs and bought a lorry. By the age of 19 he had 42 lorries, selling that business to a housebuilder for £500,000. But those principles now still run through Berkeley. ‘Everything I do is about autonomy, about respect, about touching people, about making people feel important… It’s all about the people; closeness, communication, not about the corporate empire, which is where we seem to be going in this country today.’
There are 27 companies in Berkeley today, a housebuilder that started with the principle of giving choice. But Pidgely had some good advice for his audience of youngsters. ‘Whatever you’re going to do, think about it, apply that common sense, don’t let anyone put you off, but be the best at it. If you put the energy into it, and put the passion into it, you’ll find you’ll get there.’
The students also heard from AECOM structural engineer Sophie Ashbrook who explained several engineering concepts and requirements, partially through a look at The Shard (whilst also mentioning she once designed a bike for Take That), and LDA Design director Cannon Ivers, who said that landscape architecture, ‘a long art’, was ‘about creating spaces in which people feel they belong’, referring to work at the Olympic Park. ‘The key thing is to find that thing you’re so passionate about that you’re working when you’re not working’, he said. Finally, stakeholder communications and community manager at Sir Robert McAlpine Liz Waters spoke about the benefits of a career in the construction industry.
By David Taylor, Editor, NLQ