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Wates boss urges shift from 'muck and bullets' image

The boss of Wates Group has urged a shift from the industry’s “muck and bullets” image to improve workforce diversity. 

Speaking to Construction News today after announcing a 17.1 per cent jump in annual pre-tax profit, chief executive Andrew Davies admitted he was not happy with the lack of women throughout the business and the sector as whole.

ONS data earlier this month revealed that the construction industry was still way behind the national average in terms of female representation, with women making up less than 13 per cent of the workforce

“The whole UK sector suffers here,” Mr Davies said. “You can’t have the very best people with the statistics the sector has.”

He added: “We have a lot more to do. We have a very big training intake, 19 per cent of those were female last year. If you regard that as okay, that’s fine – but we’ve got to do better.”

Mr Davies said the firm was tailoring its graduate trainee schemes towards “attracting a more diverse population”.

He added: “[The industry] needs to move the image away from muck and bullets on the sites, which isn’t just the sector.

“The industry has many different facets to it. Our business has a huge range of interesting and diverse opportunities. You have to get that message across.”

Meanwhile, Mr Davies said Wates had seen a “modest downturn” across parts of it business since the country voted last June to leave the EU.

“There is a degree of uncertainty, but we are robust enough to weather that,” he said.

“Some of the activity in London has dipped. But government frameworks are holding up well and we are very exposed to those.”

On margins in its construction business, Davies said the current level is around 2 per cent.

But he added: “We are hopeful that with the right systems, processes and people in place - particularly Paul Chandler - our efforts will be rewarded with improved margins this year.”  

Mr Chandler was named as the new managing director for Wates Group’s construction business last October, after joining from Skanska. 

On possible merger and acquisition opportunities, Mr Davies said Wates was “happy” with its current portfolio and was focused on driving value out of its existing acquisitions, including a deal nearly two years ago to acquire Shepherds’ construction arm.

But he added: “Never say never.” 

  • Wates boss urges shift from 'muck and bullets' image  Andrew Davies CEO Wates

    Wates boss urges shift from 'muck and bullets' image

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