Recruitment for Life

Our Managing Director Paul celebrates (or commiserates!) 25 years in the recruitment industry this year, and has been reflecting on some notable changes in the sector (and how old he is). Just wait till he talks rates!

How it all started

Well, 25 years, I really don’t know where the time has gone. It all started back in 1994.  My Youth Training Scheme contract was due to expire and I was after a job that paid more than £50 a week.  I saw a position advertised in the local job centre as a resourcer for G-Force in Cowbridge. After a brief interview, I was told straight away that I had the job. And in my excitement at the news I knocked all 6ft 4 of myself over after hitting the low ceiling as I got up to leave.

Luckily that didn’t change their mind and I started soon after. I was responsible primarily for filling the jobs for the consultants.  My second most important job was keeping the boss’s cup of tea full at all times. As the recruiters went off for meetings I stayed in the office. With a list of positions to fill, I flipped through the roller deck cards and lever arch folders to find temps I could call once they got home after 4.30pm. There was only one computer in the office and it was reserved for payroll. My job was all about the Filofax and picking up the phone.

Climbing the construction ladder

I was gradually given more responsibility and clients of my own to look after. For Wyndham Engineering there was a 24 hour bridge repair in Bridgend.  I would drive the welder lads to site to book in for their very early morning starts. And I would be back again to check in the night shift workers, day after day. I was then promoted to look after a coca cola packing factory job at Glyncorrwg.  If you’ve been there then you know that you can touch the clouds. That meant a 5am round-the-houses pick up and a return up the mountain at 6pm to take them home. Doing the drive there was tough enough.  I had a lot of respect for the guys that worked those hours with the smell of gone off coca cola up their noses (something no man should have to experience).

By age 19  I had worked my way up to the heights of trainee consultant. With a company car and mobile (considering that it was 1996 this was a Motorola flip and a white Ford Escort) I felt like a proper Del boy.

The job had grabbed me. It wasn’t easy to stick to, and many hadn’t, but I found it rewarding. I enjoyed building relationships with clients and workers that had slowly become friends I could go out for a Guinness with after work.  I’ve supplied labour to some very large contracts over the years and the buzz I got from finding the right person for those projects still gives me enjoyment today as MD of my own company.

Becoming an M&E recruiter

I can’t really pinpoint how I fell into specialising as an M&E recruiter. As I climbed the ranks in various agencies I started recruiting engineering operatives for Consultants. I made sure that all the labour I supplied was the best I could find and it went from there. The clients kept coming back. And the enquiries eventually came straight through to me.

I was taken under the wing of my manager Mark Howells. For my efforts I got extra perks like cheese and ham rolls from Spar for lunch! One of my first M&E recruiter jobs I won was to supply labour to Whitehead Electrical at RAF Brawdy, Haverfordwest.

I remember at that time in 1994/5 I was paying Electricians at £5.00 an hour and Electrical Mates at £3.00 an hour.  You could say times have changed.

There isn’t much labour in twenty five years that I haven’t supplied to the UK, Ireland and further afield. One of the most memorable jobs was back in 1999. I was asked by a local Welsh electrical contractor to provide labour that would travel to Bosnia. This was just after the war had ended. The sparks travelled, escorted by armed guard, to all the small, war stricken villages that had lost power to help re-connect them to the grid. When the lads returned from their last trip out there I drove up to Heathrow to collect them. I somehow managed to fill all four and their luggage into my little red Golf! There are other, very memorable jobs I could talk about if I hadn’t signed the non-disclosure agreements. You’d be surprised at the types of project that need M&E.

Construction and M&E recruitment today

Competition was small back when I started in the industry, whilst it seems these days that everyone wants to make a quick buck out of construction recruitment. Last time I checked there were over 17,000 agencies in the UK.

I’ve seen attitudes change as cowboy construction agencies chuck workers at a project until one fits.  The status of our industry goes down as we battle with this bad reputation.   Then there’s the need for ever-growing compliance and the complicated legislation changes with the introduction of umbrella working to avoid abuses of the system.

But you won’t find me changing tack anytime soon. Taking over Pier as part owner and MD was certainly a career highlight for me.  I’m proud to run a business that I hope helps to redeem the good name of the industry. The principles remain the same; supply good labour and your clients will come back to you, and I’ve stuck to what I learnt early ever since. Striving to always be better, to solve problems and create solutions and to keep those after-work Guinness outings keeps me going. Just don’t ask me to get you an electrician for a fiver!


Paul Ingram has been part owner and Managing Director of P.I.E.R Ltd since 2013 and takes a hand in the running of the M&E Division.

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