Eric lays foundations for success
Eric Oakes has always built houses, but with Plus Dane he’s building a career, too. The 49-year-old has gone from bricklayer to site manager for one of Plus Dane’s most high-profile projects in just seven years, a journey that has involved “hard work and much reward”.
Eric Oakes has always built houses, but with Plus Dane he’s building a career, too.
The 49-year-old has gone from bricklayer to site manager for one of Plus Dane’s most high-profile projects in just seven years, a journey that has involved “hard work and much reward”.
Eric became an apprentice bricklayer after leaving school and stayed in that trade right up until joining Dane Housing in 2005 where he took an opportunity to move into our aids and adaptations workforce.
“I enjoyed the work but I was hungry to take on more responsibility and so discussed it with my manager at the time,” he says. “We worked out that what I needed to go forward was more academic training and this involved studying for a foundation degree in construction offered by the University of Wolverhampton
“Plus Dane paid for the degree but I agreed to meet them half way by doing the course in my own time, in the evenings. It was very enjoyable and I learned a lot.”
Eric’s dedication caught the attention of managers and shortly after completing his degree, he was offered a supervisor’s job in Bootle, working out of our former Evolve offices.
Even though the job involved a lengthy commute from his Crewe home each day, Eric thrived in the role and as a reward was recently given the chance to become site manager for Plus Dane’s exciting Ni Smartbuild project, overseeing the construction of three homes on a pocket of land in Runcorn.
“It has involved lots of hard work to get to where I am now, it hasn’t been easy but it has certainly been worth it,” he says. “Smartbuild is such a meaningful project. It’s stressful at times but the end result will be good for Plus Dane, our customers and their neighbourhoods.”
Now that the ground work has been completed, eight members of Plus Dane’s in-house trades team are coming together to build the homes using their existing skills while learning new ones on the job.
It is hoped that the pilot will lead to others elsewhere and eventually a permanent and reactive Smartbuild team that will allow Plus Dane to build homes wherever in-fill land becomes available - saving a projected £20,000 per unit on using traditional construction firms and providing much need homes.
“There’s two key reasons why Smartbuild is such a good idea,” Eric adds. “It will let us build good quality, modern homes that people need and want to live in and the money we save by doing this ourselves can be passed on to our customers and help fund more homes elsewhere.
“The homes will also help to improve the communities they are built in - people will want to stay and make their lives in those neighbourhoods.”
A site manager’s job isn't an easy one and involves keeping a constant eye on health and safety, assessing risk, dealing with a river of correspondence and architect drawing s and making sure the whole project runs on time – an especially difficult challenge given the poor weather we’ve had this summer.
But for Eric, who is married to Michelle and in his spare time enjoys walking and caravanning, it is well worth it.
“I love the challenge of this project and I’ve had good support from mangers like Phil Pemberton and Adrian Pennington. It’s been great working with the lads who are taking part, there’s a real enthusiasm for making this work” he says.
“I’m looking forward to the day we’ll be able to give the keys to these homes to the tenants and say to them ‘there you go, we built this home for you’.”