The construction industry is one of the key building blocks of the North East economy. Dozens of dynamic companies employing hundreds of people are creating new homes, offices, roads and bridges – and a brighter future for the people who benefit from them.
The Owen Pugh Group is one company that’s playing a major role in transforming the North East skyline. Largely recognised as one of the most successful construction firms in the region, it employs more than 400 staff across five sites which include its headquarters and training facility in Dudley near Cramlington.
Undertaking work across the full civil engineering spectrum – earthmoving and demolition, drainage and groundworks, quarrying, inert waste and drain clearing, and CCTV surveys – the company boasts an enviable client base that includes local authorities, utility firms and private developers.
Owen Pugh has worked on a range of civil engineering projects across the North East, including a two-year scheme to provide drainage and asset management support services to Durham County Council. Under this significant contract, which runs until 2017, the company is providing a dedicated emergency response service to ensure the smooth running of the drainage network across the county.
Other recent contract wins include work on the £30m Morpeth Northern Bypass scheme, which will see Owen Pugh create a 3.8-kilometre carriageway that will divert traffic around Morpeth and ease congestion in the area. Over an 18-month period, the company will carry out the earthworks part of the scheme, which will involve the creation of a temporary haul road to open up the site, followed by “cut and fill” work to transform the ground into a new lay-out and design specified by the project team. Up to 30 Owen Pugh operatives will be on site at any one time, using state-of-the-art bulldozers, excavators and other equipment fitted with the latest GPS technology.
However, there’s more to Owen Pugh than buildings, bricks and mortar. The company is committed to developing the next generation of engineering talent and has nine apprentices on its books. Also at the heart of its corporate values is a pledge to create career opportunities for staff at all levels within the business.
In addition, the company provides jobs and training to disadvantaged and hard-to-reach groups through the Phoenix Detached Youth Project, a charity that works with teenagers and young adults who have found it difficult to secure employment.
While construction and civil engineering are its main specialities, Owen Pugh is building a brighter future for local people on every level.
Opportunity knocks for female construction specialists at Owen Pugh
The Owen Pugh Group is providing career opportunities for female civil engineers in an industry traditionally dominated by men.
The Dudley-headquartered firm employs seven female construction specialists as part of its team of more than 400 staff operating across the North East. And last year it hired its first ever female plant operator, Rachel Hoggett from Sunderland, to work at its Marsden Quarry site.
With support from Owen Pugh, the 21 year-old completed the Construction Plant Competence Scheme (CPCS) which taught her how to operate a tractor, bowser and a 24-tonne articulated rear tipping dumper truck. Now she’s a fully-fledged plant operator who can safely transport quarried limestone aggregates and secondary aggregates from the quarry’s crushers and screeners and load them into separate stockpiles.
Also developing her career at Owen Pugh is 24 year-old Sarah Jopling from Middlesbrough, a civil engineer who has worked within the construction team on a wide range of large-scale infrastructure projects – including PD Port’s intermodal terminal at Teesport. As well as conducting quality control work and managing operations on various sites across the North East, she’s also responsible for organising site inductions and compiling health and safety documentation to comply with audit standards.
Sarah, who joined the firm three years ago and was named Civil Engineering Contractors Association North East Trainee of the Year in 2013, said: “Growing up in a male environment with brothers, uncles and farm workers, I was never concerned about entering a profession that’s typically male dominated and I’ve always thought that my skills would enable me to excel regardless of gender.
“There are a few other females undertaking what I guess would be classed as typically male jobs within the company now and I hope we can inspire more females to get involved.”
Jan Elliot Training Development / CSR Manager at Owen Pugh said: “As a company we’re passionate about encouraging more young females into the industry and educating them about the varied careers they could pursue in construction and engineering. That will help the industry to address key skills shortages and build a talented workforce for the future.
“As Rachel and Sarah have shown, gender is no barrier to a career in this sector and we are committed to creating job opportunities for other females who want to follow in their footsteps.”
Apprentice backs ‘earn while you learn’ approach
Budding civil engineer Daniel Craiggs has never looked back since starting an apprenticeship with Owen Pugh last summer.
The 19 year-old from Ashington is undertaking a two year Level 3 Advanced Apprenticeship Diploma with the Group that will see him become a fully fledged civil engineer by 2016.
He attends Newcastle College one day a week and the rest of the time he’s busy undertaking duties including site surveys and “setting-out” across a wide range of Owen Pugh contracts.
Daniel commented: “I’ve worked at Brunton Park in Newcastle, at Cramlington Hospital, at Nissan in Sunderland and more recently I’ve been involved with the Morpeth Northern Bypass scheme.
“Having access to a pool car has enabled me to gain experience of working on different sites and alongside a number of senior engineers, which means I’m able to get as much as possible out of the experience.
“The work is really interesting and varied and the apprenticeship has given me a chance to earn while I learn which means I can be more independent. It’s given me a real taste of what life will be like working as a full-time civil engineer in the future.”
Daniel is enjoying his experience so much that he’s now helping to inspire other young people to consider a civil engineering apprenticeship. He has attended several school visits to give pupils an insight into life as an apprentice.
He said: “It makes sense for anyone considering an apprenticeship to hear from someone that’s actually experiencing what it’s like for themselves.
“I did a work placement at Owen Pugh first and I would advise people to get as much experience as they can to give them a better chance of getting the apprenticeship they want.
“An apprenticeship can provide people with a great start to their working life and I for one have never looked back.”
Owen Pugh appointed nine apprentices to work across a number of disciplines last summer.
Martin Forster, general manager for Owen Pugh Contracts Ltd, said: “So often young people are not given the opportunity to train and develop skills that will get their career off the ground but we were so impressed by the calibre of young people it gave us a great amount of faith in apprenticeships as a means of meeting our business needs. It also supports our commitment to investing in the future of young people in the construction industry.”
To find out more about the Owen Pugh Group visit www.owenpugh.com