Colleagues at Building Lives and Lakehouse have paid tribute to their founder Steve Rawlings, who passed away over the weekend at the age of 62.
Former Lakehouse chief executive Sean Birrane said he was saddened and shocked by the news, adding that Mr Rawlings had been “a mentor and father figure” to him for many years.
He added: “He helped me and many others develop our potential to the maximum and consistently reminded me of how important it is to nurture people through trust and support. Aspiration both for oneself and for others was important to him as it should be for all of us.
“His illness got hold of him too quickly and meant that a lot of those people who loved and respected him sadly did not get the chance to tell him. Rest in peace Steve, you were an inspiration to me and a special person who will not be forgotten.”
National Housing Federation chief executive and Building Lives chairman David Orr described Mr Rawlings as a “truly remarkable man”.
“He was the kindest and most generous of friends”
David Orr, NHF
“He founded and built Lakehouse from nothing but wasn’t satisfied with that,” he said. ”He wanted to make a difference for ordinary young people from difficult backgrounds.
“Building Lives was a visionary and inspiring project which existed only because of Steve’s drive and commitment. It really did make a transformational difference to the lives of hundreds of young people.
“He was also the kindest and most generous of friends. A fine man who we will miss terribly.”
KPMG head of infrastructure, building & construction and Building Lives foundation trustee Richard Threlfall said: “He was relentlessly positive to the very end.
“He would not accept defeat on anything he tried to do and I think that’s what made him so successful in business and as an advocate of bringing young people into the industry.
“He was an extraordinary person. What was clear all the time that I worked with him around Building Lives was the depth of passion, of his commitment for trying to get young people off the streets and into the industry.”
“He would not accept defeat on anything he tried to do and I think that’s what made him so successful in business and as an advocate of bringing young people into the industry”
Richard Threlfall, KPMG
Mr Threlfall said Mr Rawlings had been frustrated because he did not think the “machinery of government” cared enough for what Building Lives was trying to do.
“He poured huge amounts of his personal wealth into Building Lives but he never made an issue of it. He was quite private in that way.”
The #loveLIVES campaign by KPMG, the Lighthouse Construction Industry Charity and Construction News raised £400,000 in 50 days from across the construction industry and had “really touched” Mr Rawlings, Mr Threlfall said.
“As much as anything else, it was the appreciation that other people cared about what he cared about and were prepared to put money into it.”
Lighthouse Construction Industry Charity chairman of trustees Cormac MacCrann said it was “an honour for the Lighthouse to be associated with Steve and Building Lives”.
“He has left an enduring legacy in all the young people Building Lives helped gain a trade”
Cormac MacCrann, Lighthouse
“Steve was a passionate man who was not afraid to speak his mind,” he added. “He was very much a family man and our thoughts are with his family at this time.
“He invested a huge amount of his own time and money in the Building Lives charity and it is poignant that his passing coincided with its demise.
“However, he has left an enduring legacy in all the young people Building Lives helped gain a trade and very importantly their self-esteem.”
Bola Abisogun, chairman of the Federation of Master Builders procurement group and founder of construction and project management organisation Urbanis, posted online this morning: “I had the privilege of working with this industry icon at the Building Lives Academy in the London Borough of Hackney.
“Make no mistake, Steve – the gentleman that he was – and his BLA team really got it and [Steve] remains an ambassador for the sector in all things ‘diversity and inclusion’.
“My personal condolences are tendered to his wonderful family, all of whom I hope will muster the much-needed strength and focus at this sensitive time; our thoughts and prayers are with you all.”
What industry figures said about Building Lives
James Horton, Laing O’Rourke: “The future of our industry will be in safe hands with initiatives like this”
Paul Watkins, Morgan Sindall: “A great idea, keep it going”
Brian Manning, Esh Group: “Keep up the hard work, a great cause for the industry to get involved with”
Kim Robinson, Hy-Scaff: “The industry needs Building Lives – they are a breath of fresh air”
Sue Harris, CampbellReith: “Real apprenticehips in vital industries are so valuable to construction”