Ben Tanner, winner of the Sir Ian Dixon Scholarship, which gives the industry's bright lights a chance to research a topic of their choice, talks to Victoria Madine
How did you hear about the scholarship, and why choose best value as your topic?
My company, Ballast, approached me, and I went for it because it was a good opportunity to look in depth at a particular issue. I had a year to research, three months to write up, and £2000 to put together a 10,000-word thesis. I chose best value because it's something that is talked about on site all the time but is not always understood.

The parameters of the subject are very broad because determining 'value' is subjective. I did in the end come up with a definition – don't ask me to quote it word for word, but my main finding is that it is up to the client to set their objectives and for the contractor to respond.

Why did you go into construction?
Partly because of my background – my father was involved in small building projects, and I'd go mad if I was office-bound. But I also wanted to go into management, so construction management seemed an ideal choice. It brings together both design and management. I also love to see things come together

Why did you choose to join Ballast?
I worked with the company during my sandwich course at university – they sponsored me in my final year. When you are at college, all the companies' packages seem very similar, but I liked the fact that Ballast's management had a very positive and supportive attitude.

It’s high time construction was perceived to be a first career choice rather than a second-class job

What frustrates you about the industry?
Managers are not considered high-flyers in the same way as those in industries such as banking are. If you go into construction, people think it's because you couldn't find something else – it's high time construction was perceived to be a first career choice rather than a second-class job. There is still cynicism about this industry.

Will you continue on to an MSc?
I have been considering going on to do an MSc, but I'm really enjoying working on a very large PFI project for the Tower Hamlets Group school project, which is due to go on site later this year. It's a great opportunity to use and improve

my management skills. You need to create a balance between academic study and work – construction is so much about experience.


Current job:
Assistant project manager with Ballast’s special projects team.
BSc in design and construction management from Greenwich University – a four-year sandwich course.
Bexleyheath, south-east London.