From artists’ impressions to reality — the construction industry has only around 2500 days to deliver the 2012 Olympic Games.

Building the Olympic Games

Published:  14 August, 2005

With an immovable deadline for the Olympic Games in 2012, the construction industry — and the services sector in particular — cannot afford to be short of the required skills.

Now that the initial euphoria of London winning the Olympic Games for 2012 has died down, that summer of seven years hence looms very close. Between now and then a massive programme of construction has to be completed. The construction bill alone for the £10 billion programme for sports stadia, accommodation and infrastructure is expected to amount to £2.5 billion.

The sectors skills organisation responsible for the building-services industry, SummitSkills, has already swung into action with a project to map out the building-services engineering skills required to create the built environment for the Olympic and Paralympic Games and develop training programs to deliver them.

Skills delivery

Blane Judd, operations director with SummitSkills, says, ‘The massive workforce requirement of the 2012 games calls for a step change in the delivery of skills for the built environment. Addressing the issue is not a simple task, but it is achievable.

The challenge to be met is around 9000 homes and over 100 000m2 of stadia. However, the existing skilled workforce is already spread thinly across major developments in the south east, so SummitSkills and its partners are taking steps now to ensure that the people and skills are in place to meet labour requirements.

The initial task is to break down the construction schedule and forecast the skills required at each stage of the project. Developers and contractors will also be consulted to determine the type and timing of job opportunities, along with specialist skill requirements such as new environmental technologies being used in the buildings.

The creation of sustainable communities is a main focus of the organisers of London 2012. To ensure that training opportunities are given to those living in the five main boroughs linked to the Olympic area, plans are in place to work with contractors and developers on integration with the local population. This practice particularly applies to the building-services sector, where maintenance of the Olympic Village and its structures will be required long after the event has taken place.

‘The games also presents a huge business prospect for firms in the building-services sector, with numerous contracts available,’ says Blane Judd. ‘Planning at this stage will allow labour to be sources and skills to be developed — ensuring that these firms can successfully adapt to take full advantage of the opportunities on offer.’

Management skills, as well as engineering skills, will be needed to enable companies in the industry to deliver. With only around 2500 days to go before the games, the time taken to recruit senior permanent operation staff is a significant proportion. Nick Robeson, chief executive of Boyden Interim Management, suggests that six months for such a person to exit his current role and arrive at a new one is to be expected. That is the best part of 200 days already used up.

Interim executives

His solution is interim executives. He says, ‘This is a prime opportunity for interims — seasoned and experienced professionals who are immediately available and supremely qualified to step up to the mark and deliver complex projects under defined timescales.’

Mr Robeson explains that such people have been behind many of the key large-scale change and developments projects in the UK in recent years. ‘They are of a mindset that enables them to get up to speed, assess the issues and move into action mode without distraction.’

‘Given the short-term nature of many of these projects, the answer will not lie in permanent recruitment but will fall squarely within the remit of this well-respected freelance army.’

The difference in pace between permanent management and interim executives is enormous. Nick Robeson says, ‘Once on board, most permanent senior or board-level executives have the first 100 days to manage their transition and prepare for action. Typically, interim managers and executive do it in five days.

‘They have an intense toughness and resilience, but great authenticity and self-awareness — being themselves and not acting a part is a crucial marker for observers and participants in their assignment. But the most striking trait is the sheer pace at which they get things done.

‘And if nothing else, Olympic results are about sheer pace.’

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