This youthful bunch are thrilled to be working in construction, and even more delighted to be on Building’s new graduate advisory board. You’ll be hearing a lot more from them over the next year, but first, Eleanor Goodman and Lucy Handley do the introductions

Sophie Campbell 28

When I was younger, I wanted … to run an ice cream van on Polzeath beach in Cornwall

Today I’m an … architect with Sheppard Robson

When Sophie Campbell was a child, she complained that her dad made her “traipse around” buildings to satisfy his amateur interest in them. But in the end his enthusiasm rubbed off and she studied architecture at Nottingham university and the Bartlett.

The highlight of her career so far came a few weeks ago, when one of her designs was completed at Cranfield university, Bedford. The university is on an old aircraft base and her contribution was the conversion of a hangar to house offices, laboratories, cafes and auditoriums. It was her first finished project for Sheppard Robson.

“It’s an exciting time,” she says. “I know the detail of the building and seeing it realised is incredible. It’s a humbling experience but, at the same time, it really boosts your ego.”

It’s not all plain sailing, of course. “I get frustrated. I want design to be the most important thing in the mind of the client, but there are reasons why that can’t be the case, – money, getting things built on time, and the constraints of people’s agendas.”

She thinks more people would consider a career in construction if they knew how rewarding it can be. “If people realise you can put your name to something that you’ve designed, and that you could have an impact on the planet, I think they’d be inspired. That’s what really gets me going.”

Where would we find you on a Saturday night?

Probably in a bar on the Kings Road and then a club in Mayfair.

Diane Aldcroft 22

When I was younger, I wanted … to work on the check-outs at Tesco, and that was my first job

Today I’m a … management trainee at Persimmon

Diane Aldcroft studied management at Warwick Business School – construction never seemed like an option. “When I was at school, I wish someone had told me to do something like surveying or commercial property management.” It was only when she did a summer placement at Westbury Homes in her second year that the penny dropped.

She feels lucky to have found her calling, but thinks there should be a bigger effort to introduce young people to the industry. “You need to go to graduate fairs at universities, and in schools you need good careers officers. At school they’d never point out construction; it was always accounting or medicine.”

Aldcroft is nearing the end of her 12-month programme with Persimmon, during which time she has worked in land buying, surveying, site management, sales and customer care. She hopes to go into land buying, but says a stint on site was more fun than she had expected. One day, she was left alone to take delivery of a timber-frame house. “When I went on to site, I didn’t know they were going to leave me alone for the day. I felt very proud I’d managed to do it. I was buzzing that day; I was on a high when I got home.”

Where would we find you on a Saturday night?

Meeting friends, going out for dinner then a few drinks, and normally clubbing in Manchester once a month.

Alistair Lloyd 27

When I was younger, I wanted … to be a lottery winner. Not much has changed, but the National Lottery don’t do a suitable conversion course

Today I’m a … building surveyor/project manager for Tuffin Ferraby Taylor

Like many new surveyors, Alistair Lloyd is a “non-cognate”, meaning his degree is in something other than surveying. In fact, in the past eight years, he’s packed a lot in. He’s got a first in sports and health studies, become a financial adviser, gone travelling, done a diploma in surveying and got chartered.

“I chose my degree because I was interested in it,” he says.

“Then I worked as a financial adviser because it was well-paid and seemed to be a decent enough career. But I found it limiting.”

He got into surveying after hearing his rugby team-mates enthuse about the job, and ended up doing a diploma at the University of the West of England followed by the APC qualification. “It was a hell of a lot of work,” he says. “But it was a relief to find a career. I like it because it combines the professional with a physical and technical aspect.”

At the moment Lloyd is a development monitor on a £15m leisure complex in Eastleigh, Hampshire, but he’s aiming high. “I’d like to head TFT’s project consultancy team in this country and in Europe. Hopefully, the boss isn’t reading this.”

Where would we find you on a Saturday night?

During the rugby season, I’m usually out with the boys celebrating a win for Clifton RFC. Otherwise, I’ll be barbecuing something, irrespective of weather, and relaxing at home with my girlfriend.

Ruth Kedar 29

When I was younger, I wanted … to be an anthropologist

Today I’m an … architectural assistant at Feilden Clegg Bradley

Ruth Kedar grew up surrounded by construction work. Her home in Israel expanded as her parents had more children. “It was a family project. My dad was a carpenter and, when I was born, there were two bedrooms. By the time we moved out, there were six. There were as many rooms as there were kids.”

Although becoming an architect seemed to be “a huge thing”, she went for it. She studied at St Martin’s and then the Architectural Association, graduating last summer.

Kedar believes it’s a tough time to join the profession, though. “It’s become more about design and construction, and it’s more ‘off the shelf’. I think the role of architect will change. You have to be much more commercially aware.”

She sometimes finds developers frustrating, especially when she did her final-year project in Australia. “I was told: ‘You’re here to make money, not to make Australia more beautiful.’ It’s a battle to make sure quality and design are high on the agenda,” she says.

Her ambition is simple: “I don’t need to design a large building with a nickname – I’ll be happy to build a nice house for myself.”

Where would we find you on a Saturday night?

Probably out with friends.

Mark Chamberlain 25

When I was younger, I wanted … to be an RAF or commercial airline pilot. Or maybe an astronaut

Today I’m an … graduate trainee, NG Bailey

Mark Chamberlain is a bit of a high-flyer. He studied aerospace engineering at Bristol university and was an officer cadet with the RAF Volunteer Reserve. So why join construction?

“It was sort of a lifestyle choice. While I’m not going to have kids in the next two or three years, you have to give a 16-year commitment to the RAF and it does affect everything, and that’s not what I wanted to end up doing. I looked at being a commercial pilot too, but I didn’t want to be a weekend father.”

Chamberlain says his aim is to get on to a board of directors. Right now, though, he’s halfway through a two-year graduate programme with subcontractor NG Bailey. His first year was at Bailey Bristol on the M&E side as an assistant quantity surveyor; he’s just started with Bailey Teswaine as a project assistant.

It’s not the RAF, but construction has presented its own lifestyle challenges. When Chamberlain was doing M&E services for a Radisson hotel in St Helier, he had to live in Jersey during the week. “It was quite scary but there was quite a lot of camaraderie. I was like a rabbit caught in the headlights for a while, but the guys guided me in the right direction.”

His main frustration in industry infighting. “It’s competitive and I get frustrated with the lack of communication between main contractors and subcontractors. But that’s starting to get better.”

Where would we find you on a Saturday night?

Winter is hockey season, so Saturday nights are generally out with the hockey club. We start in the clubhouse and end up wherever the night takes us. In summer, I’ll be at a barbecue with mates, pool parties or down at the beach in Cornwall. All pretty relaxed.

Tom Wallbank 25

When I was younger, I wanted … to play for Liverpool FC. Ian Rush was my hero

Today I’m a … cost manager, Turner & Townsend

Tom Wallbank has already had a taste of the travel opportunities available to QSs when Turner & Townsend sent him to work at its Amsterdam office for three months – at very short notice. “I was asked on a Tuesday, had to give a decision on the Wednesday and went out on the Sunday.”

The project was a *40m (£27m) administration building in south Holland for US pharmaceutical giant Amgen, which wanted British building expertise. “I was a just a little anxious as I met the MD of our European operations,” he says, “but the team down there was fantastic.”

For the past three years he’s been back at the Sheffield office. He has spent half that time working on projects for a major supermarket, one of which was on his doorstep – which took the sting out of any early starts. “I could see the site from my house. That was great.”

Wallbank was sponsored by a contractor through his commercial management and quantity surveying course at Loughborough university, but decided he’d rather work for a consultancy. “I’d had my year’s experience working for a contractor, but the client side appeared to be more professional.

I’d rather be dealing with people doing the pre-construction part than on a building site.”

But his biggest challenge so far was getting his APC, partly because he was reeling from a great sporting disappointment. “My final assessment was the day after the night when Liverpool got beaten in the Champions League – and I didn’t sleep well.”

Where would we find you on a Saturday night?

I’m usually out in my home town of Doncaster, either in the bars with my mates or in a restaurant.

Aaron Wall 24

When I was younger, I wanted … to run and jump into sand. This was followed by train driver, footballer and frontman in a band

Today I’m a … graduate structural engineer, WSP

“Buildings were my pieces of art, not paintings,” says Aaron Wall of his childhood in Blackpool. And it was Blackpool tower that inspired him to get into construction.

Wall did an MEng in civil engineering at Umist. He graduated in July 2005 and joined WSP’s Manchester office two months later. His biggest project to date was a link bridge for the city airport’s T1 extension. “I saw someone walk across it a few weeks ago, which was a bit scary. But it didn’t fall down.”

He reckons more young people would go into the industry if they were aware of the opportunities on offer. “It’s never the same old work. My colleagues work in Dubai, Las Vegas and Sweden,” he says. “People from the whole team should go into schools and explain their roles, though this would take some investment.” He also thinks structural engineering should be seen as “cool rather than geeky”.

Wall’s biggest frustration is the relationships between architects, engineers and QSs on a project. “It’s hard when there is a conflict and one discipline tries to pass blame on to another. You should work as part of a team. Architects are forever changing things, so you have to adapt.”

Where would we find you on a Saturday night?

Either having a meal with my girlfriend, or in my favourite bar, Mojo’s – probably dancing really badly … or on a long journey back from watching Arsenal win.

Dong-Liang Yu 27

When I was younger, I wanted … to be a reporter

Today I’m a … senior QS, Northcroft

In Malaysia, says Dong-Liang Yu, 80% of quantity surveyors are female. “The girls I know back home have family in construction so it’s a natural choice. I think women are more meticulous than men; they make good QSs. There are shockingly few female QSs over here. The perception is that it’s not a very nice job for a girl.”

She grew up in Brunei and did an HND in Malaysia before coming to the UK for her degree at Nottingham Trent. She then spent five years working for Northcroft in Kuala Lumpur, before transferring to Britain last year.

As well as the gender imbalance of the industry, she’s found UK working practices are “drastically different”, too. “You tend to work longer hours of your own accord in Malaysia, but I like being here because there’s a good balance between work and personal life. It’s more straightforward design and build in Malaysia. The government here takes a more active role so you have to know what’s changing.”

Yu’s ambition is to become an associate director within 10 years, but first she’s itching to get chartered. “I want to do it as soon as possible,” she says, “I don’t want to stay where I am in my career.”

Where would we find you on a Saturday night?

In a restaurant, having a meal with my friends.

Richard Devoy 24

When I was younger, I wanted … to be a professional footballer. I still dream about that now

Today I’m a … graduate manager, Shepherd Construction

The skyscrapers of San Francisco inspired Richard Devoy to go into construction. On a holiday there at the age of 15, “I wondered how they stayed up”.

That curiosity eventually led to Loughborough university, where he studied construction engineering management, and then to the graduate scheme at Shepherd. At the moment he’s working in the QS department but he has always wanted to be a site manager.

“You have to follow the projects around the country, and start work at 7.30am, but it’s much more exciting than being in an office. You’re responsible for taking what the architect has drawn on paper and making it a reality.”

Devoy is concerned that young people are turned off construction because they think it’s “dirty, muddy and wet”. To counter that perception, schools should arrange site tours.

He would also like to see a “zero tolerance” attitude towards the abuse of health and safety rules. “People take shortcuts to save time and, at the moment, there’s no continuity about how it’s dealt with.”

Where would we find you on a Saturday night?

Early evening, I’d be with the rest of my football team at the bar talking about the game. Later on, after popping home to change into my dancing shoes, I’d be out in town with my mates from school – most of whom are also in the footy side. We’re a hugely social group.

Blessing Gwena 26

When I was younger, I wanted … to be the Karate Kid and chill with Mr Miyagi. I took lessons and practised my ‘wipe on, wipe off’ on my mum’s car

Today I’m an … assistant design manager, Kier London

Getting up on time for site work is the most challenging thing about construction for Blessing Gwena. Until a year ago, she was a Portsmouth university student rising at 10am or 11am. Now it’s more like 5.30am. Ouch. “It’s such a shock waking up at such an ungodly hour and adjusting your body clock to being in the real working world,” she says.

Luckily, the friendly atmosphere on site is one of her favourite aspects of the job. She wanted a career where she could work outdoors, rather than being “stuck in an office”.

Gwena studied physical engineering but, after talking to lecturers and friends who were studying civil engineering, she decided to switch in preparation for a career in construction.

She graduated in July and started working for Kier London.

Gwena likes the job’s variety too. “You can work on projects like road improvements or the Channel Tunnel, and you’re working to solve everyone’s problems – like the housing crisis.”

She would like to work on low-energy solutions and later get involved in projects to provide clean running water for developing countries. “I think I need to gain as much experience as I possibly can in England, but working abroad would be interesting one day,” she says. “I would like to use my skills to give something back to society.”

Where would we find you on a Saturday night?

At home, forcing the girls to watch Match of the Day before heading to either the Oh Bar in Camden or to a number of bars on Upper Street, Islington.