November 19, 2019

An Interview With Stephen O'Rourke

Why start the Ambassador Program?

I have a great passion for standing up for and promoting the building industry and its supporting companies - an emotion or view that is often set aside during a busy life in the building industry with its ups and downs, we forget how great a career you can have or all the good we have got out of our time working in it.

At Saint we want to help support people to come into the industry, our real goal is apprenticeships or helping someone build a career in the industry and to reach the top qualification and standing they can reach. This has not been an area of Government investment in the last few years but we are looking to find all we can to make this more of an opportunity for company owners and candidates.

I would like to make more people aware that they can carry on learning to the highest standard which in turn make those better around them. We want to put the building industry on top, to become a favoured choice on the shortlist of final options when the young candidates are choosing the career they wish to succeed in. Saint have great and ever-growing contacts within the industry who help us drive this message.

Are you in the trade?

Saint are really in the trade, hands-on every day, so we speak to our contractor clients on a daily basis, they are always looking for new staff so we put them in touch with people we know or agencies or even training schools who have a class in process or about to complete. We are very similar to other Government and private groups out there’s and we will always help and work with them, we all just want to help. it’s just we specialise in the construction industry only. So if a person wishes to get into a particular trade we can really help make that connection and it’s that can-do attitude you need in the trade to overcome challenges that push us on to help.

Do you charge?

We do not charge or profit from any help that we provide. We take it as a view we need to really help with urgency our industry at this time also to bring back some of the confidence when competing against young people choosing jobs in IT or retail sectors for example.

How do you help?

At Saint, we help with the CV’s, tips on handling the interview and making them presentable to the potential business owner as possible. We also provide mentoring and help where we can. We talk to our clients, schools, colleges and agencies to see where we can help from their side. We have found a high level of interest because we are so trade based from both sides, the candidate and the employer. I repeat there are other fantastic support partners out there, some really good people, trying to help those just getting started. Some come through from school or working a different kind of job and some come through a good education system then onto a good college or uni course. If we can help someone start in the industry as either a trade or a surveyor for example but they then embrace further training and reaching to the heady heights of chartered or the best-trained trades then we have really helped. We also encourage our existing Ambassadors to nominate the unsung passionate people who have supported the industry for many years and deserves some recognition by being nominated for Saint Ambassador.

What is asked of an Ambassador?

All that's asked of an Ambassador is if they can help by making a quick phone call or email from a candidate that wants to ask for advice. So if someone wants to get into roofing we ask someone in that sector if they would mind having a quick chat, give a few tip’s, it's a real connection. It usually just one call, as we understand our Ambassadors are busy, there is no commitment or pressure, if they are too busy then that's fine. We are just one of many out there helping, so we see what we can do. I spoke to a company the other day that took on someone aged 51 who had retrained as an electrician, they had done all of their training, it was just someone giving them a chance, great story. We handle everything and are very respectful of our Ambassador giving any assistance and we are so grateful for their valued time and help so we make sure it's a pre-planned call for example.

Who is the program aimed at?

Anyone involved in the building industry, we say we help the young men and women because we want to help with apprenticeships really, that would be a real win if we heard of someone who had got to that stage but we realise that this can also be difficult for business owners to offer so we look for guidance from some great people and help our clients for example on the current benefits or funding option of taking on an apprentice and list as many benefits as possible.

I was very lucky and served a full apprenticeship and college so looking back on it as a real learning curve and how you need to act professionally and grow was a great lesson that helps me to this day, every day is a school day. We all just want to pay something back now for that and we are very positive and motivated in making Saint just another solution, we want to help people to not only get into the industry but them to go on to reach the heights of running an organisation with an ethos on training with a drive to run a board room and fill it with real construction professionals.

I have worked for many blue chips and usually, the senior's operators were not qualified in any form of Chartered construction or construction management, they get by using strong contractors, so we have now lost that core of really impressive qualified professionals, time served, who would have a good grip on starting, running and completing a contract or navigating a boardroom. I understand the modern boardroom needs a mixture of marketeers, accountants and many other disciplines but I'd always champion a strong backbone of the construction industry.

I know training is daunting, HNC or Chartered etc, but it seems we are not even talking about training anymore. Company Directors should be identifying and supporting their staff members who show ability to go for further training and if I can try to get the message out there, that okay start in the trade, but you can really excel and have a wonderful career by progressing and this should be encouraged whenever possible.

Is it just men on the tools you help?

We have Ambassadors everywhere, anyone in the on the tools trade of course but also in Architects, Organisation, Associations, Societies, Builders Merchants, Manufacturers, trade groups, Plant Hire, anyone to do with the trade. We also have the very important managers and office staff who have years of valuable knowledge, for example, so even if it's an office, warehouse, yard or any management role but in the building industry we try to help each other, from boots to suits you could say. Our reach is not just young men and women, we look to help anyone who wants a change of career even. I have seen someone go from a postman to holding a senior management role in Engineering for one of the most established and largest operators in the world. If an ambassador can help and someone gets a placement with a kind word then we get the media people to do a little story, get a picture and a big well done! We also provide a free gift to the ambassador as a token of our thanks.

Saint Spotlight With Stephen O'Rourke (19th November 2019)

1. How did you get into the trade?

I was fresh out of school, In these days, you looked in the local paper or the jobcentre, so somehow I had an interview in the morning as an electrician and one in the afternoon as a mechanic! I didn’t have a clue really what to do. I just wanted to get out there. I had the interview for an electrician and they were kind enough to take me on and so that was it. It was a great move and I went all over London for example, I loved it, if I had been stuck in a garage I would have gone mad looking back so it all worked out well.

2. What has it taught you

In a building sense, having a good and wide-ranging electrical apprenticeship was very lucky and a fantastic base to start from. You can get to work in lots of different places daily or see a large aspect and phases of a build, from almost first in with the site temps or  working with the formwork for example to the testing or fitting of final parts so you would see the carpet fitters and painters especially on city refurbs,  I took all this in, the whole building process not just electrical, how and why’s, I did read and study, you also learn how to work with other trades and the pressures that come with that.


I was always more commercial-minded than domestic so then started on simple refits, strip outs to final finish, I had a good approach, it worked really well and just grew into working in so many different environments and project types, a real wide knowledge base and I have enjoyed it.

I have been lucky enough to have worked on so many projects and places, especially in London or around listed buildings which is a real love. The great people I have been lucky to have worked with, the real professionals I would call them and who I am still in awe of, amazed by and grateful because without them I could not have done anything like I have.

A trade really is a good grounding of a young person. An apprenticeship really does help you, you have to grow up quick, be switched on and later the disciplines of that seem to help you going forward on how you approach jobs technically for example with a considered approach to handling yourself professionally.

3. Did you have a mentor?

Yes, looking back I did, I probably didn’t realise it at the time and that is maybe why we try to help others now.

I had the great people I trained and people I have worked with over the many years but I suppose the person who really helped me was a gentleman called Mr Frank Goff from a famous London company called RTT Restoration Ltd based in Romford. This is where I really learnt so much, attention to detail and how to act I suppose which helped me succeed to this day, he was always a really kind and good guide and never a cross word spoken, although it was warranted but he was just calm, gave the possible outcomes with a little nudge maybe towards one option. If we had a cup of tea now, I would say sorry for being such a pain and thanks for sticking with me.

4. What three things would you tell your younger self

Ohh… Firstly, when you start out and you can get to the fast-paced levels you have set, it's when you hit these goals, be it educational or building a business, you can go off track if you are not sure of what's next, it's the “is this it" moment and you get a bit lost, rest on your laurels. So you need to know these moments come and you need to get used to this, take a breather and recommit, go again, but always know what's next. Secondly, I would have retrained as a charted surveyor as I always enjoyed that side of things so RSIC and CIOB if I was lucky and third… be nicer to Mr Frank Goff, I must have driven him simply nuts.

5. What can you see for the future of building?

I think there is a great opportunity for anyone in the building industry. I think we will earn more, get more skills and something I always look to improve is to make sites and working practices safer and I am glad this is getting a stronger acceptance, not just in how the men work amongst themselves but those higher up hopefully are starting to understand the site has to be safe to work in and the old days of unsafe rushed work methods are no longer acceptable. I am always going to help push the good things of the industry, some might moan and say it's an old man's game or hard work, but I love hard work, I enjoy it when I completed a large project or even something at home, it’s a great boost. We are moving technically in some aspects and you simply learn so much about everything having a trade, life, science, people, travel, I could go on.

If you are interested in beginning a career in the construction industry please contact Saint Ambassador.

Stephen O'Rourke
Saint Financial Group
Saint Financial Group

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