Black History Month in construction: David Oloke
For Black History Month, we spoke to David Oloke, a chartered civil engineer, construction manager and academic.
Born in Nigeria, David has become a highly respected figure in the civil engineering world. He has been involved in teaching and research for over 20 years, and in his position as Head of Technical Education and Apprenticeships at the University of Brighton, David has a real insight into the importance of apprenticeships in construction. He also leads the Lifegate Outreach Centre, a faith-based charity that delivers a variety of community projects.
David told us about his career in the construction industry.
Can you tell us about your background and how you initially got involved in the construction industry?
David: “I am a chartered civil engineer and construction manager and a Fellow of both the Institution of Civil Engineers and Chartered Institute of Building. I have also been an academic in various roles over the past twenty years teaching, researching and conducting knowledge transfer activities in engineering and the wider built environment domains. I was drawn to the construction industry as a much younger person due to my interests in the design and implementation of structures of various kinds.”
Can you share some examples of projects or initiatives where you've played a significant role or made a positive impact on your team or company?
David: “At the start of my career about three decades ago in my birth country of Nigeria, I was part of the team that implemented the infrastructure of the Zobe and Sabke Water Supply Projects in northern Nigeria. Both projects were valued at over £150m. I also led several World Bank sponsored National Water Rehabilitation projects at the time.
Since I arrived in the UK, I have had the opportunity to be involved in design and project implementation in a vast array of buildings (mostly alteration, refurbishment and site regeneration schemes). These include the World Mission Agency HQ in Dartford, the HDTI Building and Simulation Centre at Coventry University, Winners Chapel International in Birmingham, and several residential developments in Birmingham and across the country.
On the academic side, I have supervised PhD students and have contributed to the design of the first Building Control Surveying Degree Apprenticeship and, working with the Local Authority Building Control and Institute of Demolition Engineers, the MSc Demolition Management programme.”
In your opinion, what are the advantages of having a diverse workforce in the construction industry?
David: “A diverse workforce in the construction industry is very beneficial as it facilitates much-needed cross-cultural innovation and interactions. As an industry which continues to seek ways to improve the key KPIs of Time, Cost, Resources, Health and Safety, Environment and Sustainability, diversity continues to play a key role. Various cultures and values are constantly brought to the table in project discussions to the advantage of the project teams. This is very helpful in both academia and industry.”
Have you seen any positive changes or improvements in the industry regarding diversity and inclusion during your career?
David: “Yes, but more can be done. The last 20 years in the UK has seen a lot of issues impact migration, such as EU expansion to the East, Brexit and more recently reforms around skill shortages. Whilst the industry has ensured that Equality, Diversity and Inclusion must be adhered to by major stakeholders, more can still be done in helping to ensure that people from Black, Asian and other ethnic minorities are given opportunities to rise on the career ladder in line with their true potential.”
How can construction companies and organisations better attract and retain talent from diverse ethnic backgrounds?
David: “The industry must continue to strive for excellence and also encourage Careers Advice, Information and Guidance teams in schools and colleges to do more to enlighten potential candidates from these groups about the opportunities that abound in the industry. Companies and organisations should also set up schemes that enable placement opportunities for people from diverse ethnic backgrounds.”
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If you want to highlight someone in construction who has inspired you, or to simply share your experience of diversity and inclusion in the industry, get in touch with Go Construct