Case File:

  • Name: Alan Nixon
  • Age: 49
  • Job title: Director of Novus Solutions
  • PM Training apprentice: 1984

Why did you choose to go to PM Training?

I am originally from Northwood, close to Hanley. I went to Birches Head High School and I did reasonably well, but my parents wanted me to get a job when I left school to bring in some money instead of going on to college. To begin with I tried to combine the college and a job in the evenings but it was too much so I had to quit college.

With my future in doubt and with little idea of where to go next, I ended up at Hanley job centre and they arranged for me to go to PM Training, and that’s where it all started for me in autumn 1984. It was the gateway to my career.

What do you remember about your time at PM Training?

I remember Ted Smith and Sean Canavan, they were so enthusiastic and that was priceless. I owe them a lot. I spent a little bit of time learning practical skills, I can recall failing badly to apply paper to a ceiling as part of a decorating lesson. Ted Smith took me to Crawford Doors in Milton where I started my first work placement on a YTS training scheme earning £26.40 a week.

How did your apprenticeship change your career path?

Before I arrived at PM training I had no idea what the future would hold for me. It’s hard to guess where I would have ended up but at the time I remember feeling bleak about my opportunities in life. It was the era of punk rock and heavy metal so not the most uplifting of times and I can remember the threat of nuclear war between the USA and the USSR.

I probably would have had to start my working life on a shop floor somewhere stacking shelves, but I always loved maths and knew I wanted to work with numbers. I don’t think I would have had the success I’ve had in the building industry if I’d taken a different path.

What piece of advice would you give to young people considering an apprenticeship?

Do not settle for ‘your lot’ in life. You have choices and with hard work and endeavour anyone can achieve success. I started life on an apprenticeship and this gave me valuable practical experience to build on and by learning on the job it was easier to see the path to progressing within the organisation. Be clear about your goals and work tirelessly to achieve them.

Where has your job taken you?

When I completed my YTS scheme with PM Training, Crawfords offered me a full time job which included training at Stoke-on-Trent college. At 18, I had an interview at Seddon as a trainee estimator, a role which involved working out how much it costs to construct  buildings. I nearly didn’t go to the job interview on the Saturday morning because I’d been out late the night before. In the end I turned up late, I hadn’t dressed the part and I hadn’t even brushed my teeth - incidentally I have never turned up to a meeting like that since. One of the tutors from college was also working at Seddon and he recognised me and put in a good word for me. It was a miracle I got the job, I was lucky.

Whilst there I wanted to do a degree in quantity surveying, but one of my seniors questioned whether I was capable of studying for a degree. With that one comment I caught the bug for trying to be the best I could be. I got the highest marks in the first year winning the year prize. I completed the degree in 1992 and felt proud that despite dropping out of A levels I realised my goal in the end. Before long I was leading the estimating team and then I progressed further in the business eventually becoming a director in 2003.

What is the most valuable information you learned?

Having started working life needing the help of others, I take great pleasure in seeing people mature and make their mark. I think we would all struggle if we thought we were going to be in the same job for the rest of our lives so creating opportunities for people to progress is the most fulfilling part of the job for me. Novus has 850 employees with 25 offices stretching from Scotland to Southampton.  The company has grown and that success has allowed us to nurture and support our staff in developing their careers. The family ethos and values are strong in this business, and we work together for the best outcomes for both the person and the company. Its these values that have kept me in this business for 30 years and I’m still learning!

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