Graduate Trainee Q&A
The Wernick Group Graduate Training Programme gives graduates the opportunity to experience working across a variety of roles within the modular and portable building industry. The first person to pass through the Programme was Nathan Hunt, who is now Manager of Wernick Hire’s Banbury Depot. We asked Nathan for his thoughts on the Programme, and how it helped kick start his career.
Why choose a career in construction?
“Nothing’s better than being part of such a diverse industry where elements are constantly changing with demand. This makes no two days the same, which makes it an interesting Career for anyone.“
What attracted you to modular and portable buildings?
“I will be perfectly honest and say my knowledge on this industry was very limited, but for me this has been the best bit about joining Wernick. I am constantly learning about modular and portable buildings, and being part of a growing firm we are constantly testing ourselves in how far we can go. When I tell people what I do the main response contains the phrase ‘Oh, flat-pack?’, and it’s been great actually informing people outside the industry and explaining how it all works.”
Why choose the Wernick Programme?
“The programme opens your eyes to a career that you most probably didn’t know existed. You are guided through the world of Modular and Portable Accommodation by experienced professionals who are more than willing to pass their knowledge on. The programme opens up a range of prospects within the company and every day is different.“
Before you became aware of the Programme, what route had you planned to enter the construction industry?
“After completing my Degree I started applying for jobs within the industry and found myself in a Catch-22 situation. A lot of companies were asking for experience but I wasn’t able to gain any because I wasn’t being given a chance. I did manage to become an Assistant Site Manager for a small Office Refurbishment company in London. This experience was fantastic and I certainly learnt a lot, but I wasn’t learning a specific “trade” as such, and my opportunities were limited.“
What was the first Wernick Company you joined, and what projects were you involved in?
“The first company I joined was Wernick Hire, and throughout the year got involved with lots of different projects and tasks that gave me a lot of usable experience. I was learning from knowledgeable people with years of experience and helped me greatly in my development which I will always be grateful of. For example, I helped negotiate the hire of a 6 Bay Modular, airside at Heathrow Airport for Carillion. This brought a couple of cost and logistical problems but lead to a very happy customer.
“I also oversaw an installation for Volkerfitzpatrick at a job in Luton. It involved 15 linked cabins, a 4 bay AVflex building and another two modular buildings, comprising of two and three bays. As well as major projects like those, I tried my hand at pretty much everything, from preparing cabins for hire to attending sales workshops and meeting new customers.”
Where did you go after Wernick Hire?
“After my year in Wernick Hire, I moved over to Wernick Buildings in Neath. I spent seven weeks in the factory observing how various buildings are manufactured, from a simple cabin up to large schools and cadet centres.
“After the factory I spent some time in the Technical Department, which gave me an understanding of how modular buildings are designed, and then estimating. This involved pricing jobs for a variety of customers, including large contractors and Local Authorities.
“Once I had completed 6 months at Wernick Buildings Head Office, I moved to a Regional Office for a further 6 months to gain experience in the construction side of the business. The move allowed me to observe the installation of some of the buildings I’d helped manufacture in the factory. This was fantastic because it gave an insight of the process from beginning to end. I spent most of this time working with the Contracts Managers and Administrators, aiding in site activities, or in meetings with subcontractors and customers. It would often involve problem solving and addressing any issues to try and ensure the smooth completion of the project.”
What happened at the end of the Programme?
“At the end of the programme you are given a choice of what part of the Group you would like to join. I accepted an Assistant Manager role at Wernick Hire’s depot in Banbury, which coincided with the current Depot Manager retiring later in the year.
“Coming in as Assistant Manager allowed me time to meet key customers and suppliers, and form a greater understanding as to how the Depot works. Everyone was extremely friendly and helpful which made it a lot easier in settling in. When the time came for me to take over as Manager, I was confident I could perform well in the role, and the transition was very smooth.”
What advantages do you think the Programme has given you compared to more traditional routes into the industry?
“The Graduate Programme has given me that chance to really apply myself, especially as I haven’t been restricted to the office for 5 days a week. Over the 2 years I wasn’t doing just 1 job or role; one week I was gaining experience on site, and the next going to a meeting with one of the main contractors of the UK. I’ve been involved in, amongst other things, site work, sales, finance, contract negotiations and budgeting. I’ve gained a lot of experience that I think has made me more well-rounded, in terms of skills, than I otherwise might have been.
“This was further helped by all the opportunities I had to meet various people within the company. My progress was monitored at Director level, with meetings at least once a quarter to review my progress and set tasks for the next quarter. It was great to be able to have that dialogue with such experienced people, who were invested in my development. This wasn’t limited to Directors though; everyone has been extremely helpful and interested in my development and the programme has opened up a variety of opportunities.“
What does it take to be successful on the Programme?
“You will need a willingness to learn and adapt because within the programme you experience an array of roles very quickly and can be very demanding at times. However once this is overcome the rewards are well worth it.
“I found if you are confident and respectful to colleagues then you learn a lot easier as ultimately they are the people with the know-how. You will also have to be willing to have your motorway driving experience changed; you can’t help turning your head as Modular Bays or Cabins drive the opposite way and asking yourself ‘I wonder where they are going’ or ‘I wonder who has sent them out?’”