Winner: Steve Rawlings, founder, Lakehouse / Building Lives
This year’s inductee into the Construction News Awards Roll of Honour is a man who made his name building a £300m-turnover contractor from scratch.
But he has become even better known for what he has gone on to do: establish a network of training academies across London that have given hundreds of disadvantaged young people a route into the construction industry.
Our winner is Steve Rawlings, the founder of Lakehouse and social enterprise, Building Lives.
Mr Rawlings was always destined for a career in construction.
The boy from Bow in London’s East End left school at 16 with two O-levels to join the family building firm.
He was earmarked to become a surveyor, but opted to train as a roofer instead. As he puts it: “It was too hot to be indoors and I was too young to wear a tie.”
He moved back into the office a decade later to finally train as a surveyor, learning how to estimate and run jobs.
After his father retired, he broke away to start Lakehouse in 1988 from a bedroom of his house in Wanstead.
“So many people living in social housing were second or third-generation unemployed families. I thought I could do something to help”
His first contract was worth £8,000 doing repairs for a pub. The rest, as they say, is history, with Mr Rawlings presiding over the growth of the company and subsequently bringing in executive chairman Stuart Black in 2007.
Lakehouse was listed on the stock exchange earlier this year and Mr Rawlings stepped down at the time of the flotation to concentrate on Buildings Lives, though he remains the majority shareholder.
Lakehouse has built much of its success on the back of contracts for social landlords, and it was while carrying out a contract for housing association
One Housing in Camden that Building Lives was born. “I was saddened to learn that so many people living in social housing were second or third-generation unemployed families.
“I thought if I could do something to help it would please the client - so initially the idea was a commercially driven one.”
Since then, Mr Rawlings has been driven by the desire to give something back, setting up academies using his own money to get people trained and working in the industry.
One of those to have benefited is former apprentice Krystle Monaghan.
The 26-year-old had left school at 14 without any qualifications and, through older friends, became involved in drinking and drug use.
Today, she is a site manager at Kier. “I would not have been able to get this far without Building Lives,” she says.
“They support you to completely change your life - not just with the training but with support in your personal life as well.”