IAN GORDON'S departure from school in 1972 coincided with civils contractor John Howard relocating from Datchet in Berkshire to his native Kent.
Mr Gordon recalls: 'One of my cousins persuaded me to go down there and take a look and I suppose I was impressed by all the machinery and the tower cranes.'
He was impressed enough to take an apprentice fitter's job at Howard's, which built the first Severn Bridge and the Humber Bridge.
Mr Gordon stayed with the company for 14 years and took in two overseas tours of duty, with a year on an island in Malaysia in 1981 followed by a 12-month trip to the Seychelles five years later.
'Who wouldn't take on a job in the Seychelles?' asks Mr Gordon rhetorically.
'It was hard work though, as we had to take all the kit over from Malaysia by boat.And when we got there, we had to make do with what we'd got because there were no spares.'
A fortnight after he returned to the UK, John Howard went to the wall.
But the business was saved by Fairclough and is now part of Amec's UK marine civil engineering operation.
Mr Gordon could have stayed but opted to quit and join Costain's marine civil engineering arm, John Shelbourne in Erith, Kent.
As Costain ran into financial trouble in the 1990s, investment in its plant fleet slumped and Mr Gordon was tempted by an offer from the burgeoning Kier empire in late1996.