Alan Charters recently joined the University as Aston’s new Director of Capital Developments, working alongside the existing Estates & Facilities team. Aspects met Alan to find out a little more about this brand new position and just what it involves.
Alan has enjoyed what he describes as ‘a very varied career’ and has worked for some of the biggest names in the construction industry. He left school at 16 to start his training with Tarmac (now Carillion) where he was continuously promoted, starting as a Trainee Site Engineer to become a Site Manager within 7 years. He stayed for another 6 years before joining Balfour Beatty as a Projects Manager and then going into construction consultancy work in the mid 90s. His work as a consultant included the Bullring redevelopment and also an expansion and refurbishment of Birmingham prison. He says this was ‘one of the most satisfying jobs as I was able to see the project run from start to finish. I delivered it on time and under budget and it was also a very challenging experience due to the stringent security issues and unusual environment I was faced with’. Most recently Alan worked for Miller Developments and RegenCo, an urban regeneration company funded by Sandwell Council.
Tell us about your role at Aston and what it involves?
My position as Director of Capital Developments is a brand new position. It is my responsibility to manage all of the University’s major construction developments from start to finish. I will be given development ideas that colleagues have and it is then my job to manage the process and make the ideas a reality. This involves defining what the project is, finding a suitable space, involving stakeholders, dealing with the logistics, the physical construction work and completing it before the Estates team look after it on a day-to-day basis. Part of my job is about process and procedures but the largest part is about people management and getting the best out of the teams I work with in order to get projects completed on time.
What attracted you to work at Aston University?
The job itself - I was delighted that this opportunity came up. I feel that there has been a natural progression through my career over the last 30 years and that has positioned me very well for this role. Former colleagues of mine that now work for universities always say that it’s a great environment to be part of. I can already see that they are right!
What is the first thing you will implement?
I want to get to grips with the numerous projects that the University has on the go. I have high expectations of how projects should be managed, reported and controlled and don’t want to make any changes until I fully understand what is required. I’m a firm believer in continuous improvement and am always open to suggestions and ideas!
What are you most looking forward to?
The one thing that has always excited me about construction is being able to physically stand on a new concrete slab, knowing how much you’ve already achieved to get to that stage. To then be able to see the completed end result really is the most fantastic feeling. The great thing at Aston is that I am engaging with the people who are actually going to use these buildings and it won’t be just a case of ‘handing it back’ at the end of the project. I will see my work being used on a daily basis.
What do you see as your biggest challenge?
Looking at how campus can be redeveloped for the decades to come so that it is practical, robust and sustainable whilst delivering this in the current period of recession.
Words by Louise Russell