The group’s chief executive on starting out as a YTS apprentice, surviving the pandemic and why the finest seafood should be simply served

Lee Parkinson, chief executive at ENProcure

Efficiency North chief executive Lee Parkinson began his career more than 30 years ago as a YTS apprentice construction technician

Why did you choose construction as a career?

My father was a site manager and I was aware of the sector and what it was about from a very young age. Many other members of my family had jobs in the sector so you could say I was born to choose construction.

What are you most proud of in your career to date?

Leading procurement on one of the UK’s earliest, largest and most complex PFI schemes at the age of 24.

What has been the biggest challenge of your career to date?

Successfully leading Efficiency North through the pandemic and then recovering from that with two record years of trading.

If you could change one thing about the industry, what would it be?

Despite all of the good work, there are still plenty of people who seem dedicated to damaging the collaborative ethos that – as anyone who has done anything in the sector knows – is vital to successfully delivering complex projects. No one wins in construction on their own.

What is the most helpful advice that you have been given?

It is nice to be important but it is more important to be nice.

Chep Lak Kok airport Hong Kong

Source: Shutterstock

Hong Kong International airport on Chep Lak Kok island. Construction began in 1991 and it opened in 1998 

Name your favourite building in the world?

Chek Lap Kok Airport in Hong Kong. I was lucky enough to work on the scheme, which at that time was the biggest on the planet. The scale, the functionality and, even in the mid-1990s, the MMC principles make for a graceful, skeletal structure.

Which famous building do you most dislike?

Not a building as such but The Angel of the North. I have my reasons…

Which famous building do you wish you had worked on?

St Paul’s Cathedral – AI just could not do that. I started out in construction as a site engineer and a scheme like that would test all of your engineering production skills. The craic with the stonemasons would be first class too.

What single piece of advice would you give to someone starting out in your profession?

Care for the sector. In return, the sector will care for you.

Angel of the North low res

Source: Shutterstock

Lee has his reasons for disliking Antony Gormley’s Angel of the North…

Who do you most admire in the construction industry?

The people that get in the van every day, in all weathers, to deliver the job. Without them nothing would happen. 

What is it like being you (and doing your job)?

Lucky. I have a great job, with a great team doing great stuff. Starting out as a YTS trainee on £25 a week and working my way up through the ranks, I am very grateful for the opportunities and people that have led me to the role I have today.

Do you have a life philosophy?

I do. If you are going to be in the room, be in the room. Be part of the conversation, be involved, be engaged and be committed to something.

What do you think your best quality is?

Ideas. As my father said, I have a very vivid imagination.

What trait do you most dislike in yourself? And in other people?

I am never satisfied. In others, people who are not big enough to take responsibility for their mistakes. If you make a mistake, then you should go back with a solution – and in a ready fashion.

St Pauls Cathedral


St Paul’s Cathedral… a true test of construction skills

Name three things that you like

Good music, good humour and good luck!

Tell us about a secret skill that we don’t know you have

Music knowledge. I am ace in the music round at a pub quiz.

What is your most prized possession?

From a construction perspective, I still have the propelling pencil that I used in my first job as an apprentice site engineer. I recall the day I bought it and the excitement I had for the role. Happy days…

Early bird or night owl?

Both. During the pandemic, it was definitely a bit of both.

What is your favourite food?

Good-quality seafood served simply. Italians, Greeks and those from Northumberland are good at this!

What would your superpower be?

The power to create superpowers.

Lee Parkinson is chief executive of Efficiency North, which offers a range of professional services to support social and economic regeneration in the north of England. It is the holding group for four sub groups covering procurement for social housing, employment and training, land development and funding.