Local construction skills champion celebrates 65-year career

By Anita Jaynes on 16 December, 2015

Local construction skills champion Alan Beard, who has helped launch the careers of many young people in the South West, has celebrated 65 years of working for Swindon-based Beard Construction, at a special anniversary party attended by many of his trainees, apprentices and work colleagues.

Alan, now company chairman based at the regional construction company’s Swindon office, was 17 when he joined the business in 1950 as a trainee on £3.25 shillings a week at the firm’s former subsidiary office in Cirencester.

“There were only five of us in that office so we all had to turn our hands to whatever job was required. I learned about building through watching the tradesman working and talking to experienced members of our team. The contracts manager and our painter foreman controlled the jobs then which were largely carpentry repairs and painting as it was a little after the Second World War when six years of building neglect had to be made good.”

Alan learned his trade and eventually moved to the company’s Swindon office before jointly taking over the business with his brother from their father, Geoffrey, in the 1970s until 1999, when his son, Mark Beard became chief executive on the reconstruction of the company.

Mentoring the company’s trainees and apprentices has been a lifetime passion for Alan who has been the driving force behind Beard’s highly successful youth training programme for school-leavers and graduates which combines practical on-the-job construction training with academic studies. The company retains the vast majority of its trainees who Alan credits for Beard’s continued growth which since 1950 has seen turnover rise from just over £100,000 to £108 million today.

“Having started my career as a trainee, I know how important it is to attract young, talented people into our business and the wider construction industry, which faces an acute skills shortage,” explains Alan. “As a business, we’ve always believed that young people are vital to Beard’s long-term success and the investment we make in them now, ensures we have a skilled and qualified workforce in the future.”

Beard, which has offices in Swindon, Bristol, Oxford and Guildford, currently has 12 trainees on board who are studying carpentry, surveying, construction management, estimating and IT. The students are gaining experience working on construction, restoration and refurbishment projects from £50,000 up to £10 million.

“Alan is passionate about encouraging young talent and he’s always made sure that we had the right support and opportunities to succeed as trainees. He’s encouraged us all to put ourselves out of our comfort zones so that we could develop our skills and progress in our careers,” explains Doug Gray, 26, who joined Beard from school as an apprentice carpenter and is now a site manager building a £2.6 million school for the company. “Alan has played a key role in my construction career and the careers of many other trainees, many of whom are managing surveyors and construction directors today. We are all extremely grateful for what he’s done for us.”

With his career well into its seventh decade, Alan, a keen squash player, looks set to follow in the footsteps of his grandfather and company founder E W Beard, the world’s oldest builder, who started the firm in 1892 and worked in it for an incredible 85 years earning a Guinness World Record for the longest working career.

Alan and his wife Eileen, who has supported him through 55 years of his working life, live in Swindon.

Pictured above: Beard chairman Alan Beard (front centre) celebrates 65 years of long service with his past and present trainees many of whom still work for the company.