In this series we shed some light on some of the key people who are involved with or give their time to support JCT, to ensure that all areas of the construction industry are represented and can contribute to the development of our contracts. We will look at how our interviewees contribute to JCT specifically, and gain their views on JCT’s wider role within the industry.
BSc, FRICS, MAPM, FQSi
Member, JCT Council, LGA Representative
Associate director, Surveying and Compliance, NPS Leeds Ltd
Kathryn Ladley will begin her 50th year in the construction industry this autumn. She is currently employed by NPS Leeds Ltd as an associate director managing two teams of building surveyors, the company’s quantity surveyors and a team of compliance professionals which comprises clerks of works and building services inspectors, CDM advisor, fire safety engineer, energy performance assessor, and a business support team.
Prior to joining NPS seven years ago Kathryn spent most of her career working within local authorities although she also spent time working in private practice and for contractors. Born, bred and educated in Yorkshire, and a graduate of Leeds Polytechnic (now Leeds Beckett University), Kathryn enjoys living and working in “God’s own county”.
Kathryn became a chartered member of the RICS in 1975 and a fellow in 2003, the same year in which she qualified as a member of the Association for Project Management.
In 2012 Leeds City Council transferred its internal design team across to a new company, NPS Leeds. At the time Kathryn was interim manager of this multi-disciplinary team and guided them through the complex negotiations. Prior to that role, Kathryn worked as LCC’s construction best practice officer.
As well as her role on the JCT Council, Kathryn also sits on the SCQS (Society of Construction and Quantity Surveyors) Council and is a founder member of the QSi (Quantity Surveyors International).
JCT: Kathryn, how did you first come to be involved with JCT? Why do you think it is important to be involved?
KL: I became involved with JCT only last year. I had been invited through the SCQS and was pleased and honoured to be asked to play a part in such a prestigious organisation. You might say, that as a young quantity surveyor with Leeds City Council back in the early 1970s, I “cut my teeth” on JCT contracts. It was a part of my training and career that I always enjoyed. I liked the clarity, dependability, variety of contract forms and wealth of contract precedence available. I find it exciting and stimulating to be able to play a part in furthering the development of JCT contracts to meet modern demands and changes in the industry. I also think it is a way of giving back to an industry that I have loved being a part of.
Local authorities have always been big users of the JCT forms and I think it is important that local authorities have the opportunity to present their views in this forum.
JCT: Can you tell us about any specific work you’re currently doing with JCT (e.g. any work with working groups/committees)?
KL: Being a relatively new member of the Council I have yet to become involved in any of the current range of working groups. I hope this will be remedied in the near future.
JCT: Do you have any personal career highlights?
KL: I suppose I have three highlights in my career. The first was when I became a chartered surveyor in 1975. When I started my degree course I was the only girl in my class of 25, and indeed, the only girl in the whole of the department of Building and Civil Engineering at Leeds. I came into the industry in 1970 being told that women just didn’t do this kind of career. I was told I wouldn’t be able to cope with the site conditions, it’s too demanding for a girl, you’re not worth training, you’ll leave and have a family and the money spent on training you will be wasted, it’s construction – it’s technical – you won’t be able to understand it and it’s not fair you are taking a man’s job and are being paid a man’s wage. Well, here I am nearly 50 years later, still working and still loving part of the industry. It was good to prove that I could do the job and gain my qualification.
The second was when I became FRICS in 2003 and the third was in 2017 when I won the European Women in Construction and Engineering, Lifetime Achievement in Construction Award.
JCT: What are you most proud of about the construction industry as a whole and where do you think it most needs to improve?
KL: What makes me most proud about being a part of the construction industry is the end product. I love the buildings we all produce and have produced for many years. I look in awe and wonder each time I see a building and am amazed at the skill and workmanship that have gone into creating it. I don’t just mean the myriad of historic edifices which are applauded by the population in general, but also the ones that don’t always seem to work, the ones that people criticise and grumble about. To me they stand as a testament to the team that created them from the design team, through the highly skilled trade craftspeople and labourers, to the materials developers and suppliers. I love the way simple (and sometimes not so simple) components are put together to produce homes, hospitals, schools, public buildings and factories to enhance our daily lives.
JCT: What do you see as the main challenges for the construction industry over the next five years?
KL: Sadly I feel there will be many challenges over the coming years brought about by the political and economic situation we find ourselves in at the moment and the period of austerity we have endured since 2008.
I am saddened at the numbers of skilled designers and craftspeople that the industry has lost and I feel that without a fresh look at procuring a greater diversity within the industry we may struggle. Every day I read in the media about the difficulties still being experienced by young women and members of BAME groups trying to establish themselves in the industry, the same sort of difficulties I experienced in the 70s. I also read about the shockingly high numbers of people experiencing mental health issues and how little is being done to help them. If the industry is to continue being the deliverers of great buildings and a great environment these areas need to be addressed.
I also reflect on the increasing interest in off-site construction. I read all the arguments regarding the need but can’t help thinking (and perhaps this is one of the consequences of having been in the industry for such a long time) I’ve been there, done that and am still picking up the pieces from last time.
JCT: Does JCT have a wider role to play in the industry beyond producing contracts?
KL: Undoubtably JCT will always be the front runner in the world of building contracts. The in-depth knowledge, the history, and the breadth of experience provided by members of both Council and the Board ensures that all documentation emanating from JCT is well considered, relevant and fair. There are, however other areas of the industry that can and will benefit from that special JCT approach. I think JCT has a part to play in guiding young professionals as they enter the industry and mentoring them along the way, and it should also continue to be a guide in providing the path to best practice. The industry proffers a collaborative way forward in an attempt to reduce the more adversarial approach seen in the past, however, just talking about it doesn’t make it happen and it won’t happen overnight. I believe JCT has a part to play in helping to deliver this with the same carefully considered and fair approach displayed in everything they do.