In Conversation with…..Catriona Lingwood

Tell us about your role at Constructing Excellence North East.

My title is chief executive but my role could be classed as ‘chief, cook and bottle washer’ which might be more apt with having to be fairly hands on as part of a small, regional team. No day is the same, well before Covid-19 struck anyway. One day I would find myself speaking to students about what amazing opportunities the construction industry has to offer them to going out on a building site to look at new interventions, hosting events of varying kinds including CPD seminars to capacity packed awards dinners not to mention the networking that goes on via the events and our own independent networking events.

What services does the organisation provide?

Constructing Excellence in the North East is a business support organisation, seeking to improve performance, shift perceptions and, together with the industry, form a powerful voice for change in order to achieve a better built environment. We provide workshops, seminars but also capture knowledge and disseminate this to the wider industry so they may learn from their peers. We have a great young professionals network, Generation4Change (G4C), that crosses the whole of the built environment and we have two very vibrant groups in the region, one based in the North East LEP area the other in the Tees Valley. Encouraging, nurturing and retaining talent in the region is absolutely paramount for regional and industry growth.

What’s your proudest business achievement?

The initiation and development of our awards programme has to be my proudest business achievement. When we were first established it was suggested by our then board that this would be a good way to showcase best practice in the industry and encourage others to follow suit. Our first awards in 2005 only had four categories. This has developed into the suite of awards we now have including the prestigious Projects of the Year. The G4C Awards has been a more recent development, but I have to say is probably one of my favourites, as recognising and rewarding the brilliant talent in our region is awe inspiring.

What challenges have you encountered?

Well, you could say an unprecedented pandemic, which no one had ever anticipated but we have muddled through together as a sector. Apart from that, I think our biggest challenge has been survival. Back in 2003 we were established with support from One NorthEast, the Regional Development Agency but then the great recession hit in 2008 following the 2007/08 global credit crunch. This hit the construction industry hard but those who believed in what we were trying to achieve stayed with us. Then, to make things worse, the RDA was abolished after the General Election in May 2010, so we had to rely on funding from a struggling industry. We are still here delivering services, so I thank a forwardthinking industry for the continued support.

How has the industry changed since you arrived at the company?

Wow, where do I start? Back in early 2000s there were over 500 job related deaths a year in our industry. Building projects were delivered late, over budget and quality was seriously lacking. With the focus on Construction Key Performance Indicators I’m pleased to say things have improved emphatically with job related deaths falling to 30, an all-time low, in 2019. However, there are new challenges to address including mental and physical wellbeing and by far the biggest challenge ever is the climate emergency and what the industry and property sector can do to address this.

Who are your heroes in and out of business?

In the region it has to be John Hays, founder of Hays Travel. We all have our sporting and entertainment heroes and I’m privileged to have met some of mine including Jonny Wilkinson in 2004 following the England World Cup win and Newcastle Falcons Powergen Cup victories. I met Niall Quinn in 2017 and had the immense pleasure of walking Hadrian’s Wall with him, well part of it, anyway.

However, true heroes to me are those that do completely selfless things for others without receiving or expecting any reward. In this you can include lifeboat crew, mountain rescue and our medical and emergency services.

Is there a mantra you always aspire to do business by?

Nothing changes, nothing changes.

Or, as Henry Ford said “If you do what you’ve always done, you get what you always got.”

Constructing Excellence is a platform to stimulate debate and drive much needed change in the construction sector. Our members, from the entire supply chain, share a vision for change through innovation and collaboration.

How do you like to unwind?

Well, it’s no secret that I like a glass of something sparkling with friends. However, over the last year in lockdown and not being able to go too far I have rediscovered my love of walking and have found some amazing places virtually on my doorstep. I also run, although not very fast, and like to support others starting out on their running journey in my role as a run leader with Washington Running Club. I am also a member of the Core Team at Herrington Country Parkrun and literally can’t wait for its restart in June 2021.

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