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Graduation celebration for Building Students

High flyers complete five-year training course with top marks

Russell WBHO is celebrating the achievements of six Building Students who have graduated with top marks from the University of Salford. Friends and family members joined them at Salford’s Lowry Theatre for the formal ceremony yesterday.

The graduates have all completed the award-winning Russell WBHO Building Student Programme, a professional apprenticeship combining a five-year part time degree with in house and on-the-job training with the Manchester-based contractor.

Alex Galloway, Duncan Kay, George Carus and Marcus Crawford have completed degrees in Quantity Surveying, while James Ashton and James Brown have graduated with degrees in Construction Project Management.

The programme, which saw Russell WBHO named Best Large Employer at the University of Salford Apprenticeship Awards in 2020, is overseen by construction director John Millward, commercial manager Andrew Walker and commercial director Nick Sunderland.

Students enjoy rotations through six different departments in their first two years, working on a range of different projects across various sectors. After experiencing everything from pre-construction and quantity surveying to site management and health and safety, the building students then select a specialism for their final three years.

John Millward said: “The Building Student Programme is designed to bring talented young people into the construction industry and provide the company with young professionals with the right skills and qualities to help drive our business forward. To that end, we invest considerable time, energy and resources into nurturing our future managers and leaders, and I must thank all those colleagues, mentors and managers who are so generous in sharing their time and knowledge with the students.

“Our vocational in-house training complements the university syllabus brilliantly and provides the students with the ideal combination of theory and practice, and the crucial experience of working in a busy live environment as part of a team.

“These students have worked extremely hard and the results speak for themselves. The four firsts and two 2:1s are testament to the hard work put in by students and mentors alike, especially considering the additional challenges this cohort faced through the pandemic challenges.”

He added: “I’m thrilled for them all. It doesn’t seem five minutes since we shortlisted and selected this particular year group, let alone five years!

“It is great to see them develop as characters and gain confidence over the five years. We’ve purposely exposed them to tasks outside of their comfort zone and they have always risen to the challenge with huge success.

“Following their graduation, we will continue to support their career development at Russell WBHO and mentor them through the professional chartership process.”




Marcus Crawford, from Mossley, achieved a 2:1 in Quantity Surveying and is working as assistant QS for the £30m super-computing centre project at SciTech Daresbury in Cheshire.

He joined the Building Student programme at 18 after the career’s advisor at sixth form suggested quantity surveying could be a good match for his skills and ambition. Having looked into things further, Marcus applied to the Building Student programme and is now making his way up the Quantity Surveying ladder.

He said: “My first rotation on the Building Student programme was working in engineering on the new Premier Inn at Circle Square for six months before moving on to Axis where I worked in site management for a further 12 months.

“Then I did quantity surveying at the new Clayton Hotel on Portland Street which I enjoyed and subsequently chose to follow the commercial route after completing my 3rd year at university. As a QS on a 329-bedroom hotel, I gained valuable experience of a number of trades while managing the subcontract packages.

“I’m now on the super-computing centre in Daresbury, where I have continued to gain further knowledge and understanding of the role of a QS.”


James Brown, from Astley, graduated with a 2:1 in Construction Project Management and is currently working as a site engineer at the Super-computing centre project in Daresbury, Cheshire.

James joined the Building Student programme at 19 having previously working for another main contractor and joined the programme part way through.

He said: “Over my three years at Russell WBHO I’ve worked on a range of projects such as the 32-storey residential tower Oxygen in Manchester city centre, the refurbishment of the Grade II listed Municipal Buildings in Liverpool, and the £30m super-computing centre at SciTech Daresbury. Working across these different projects has given me valuable experience of a variety of construction processes and practices on each one.

“Studying part-time has also been a great element of the programme as it allowed me to gain a degree in Construction Project Management whilst also gaining the practical experience at work.

“I appreciate the opportunity provided by Russell WBHO and the investment made through the training programme. The company really value the students and provides much needed support for developing the skills needed to work and succeed within the industry.”


Duncan Kay, from Rainhill, secured a First in Quantity Surveying. He is currently preparing to commence a new scheme as an assistant estimator/QS at head office.

He joined the Building Student programme at 19 after choosing construction as an industry which would provide the opportunity for a successful career but was unsure about which of the many potential pathways he wanted to pursue.

Experiencing each of the six different departments within the first two years of the Building Student Programme afforded Duncan the opportunity to explore all avenues before choosing the commercial route to becoming a quantity surveyor.

He said: “I really appreciated the opportunities to explore the different routes that you can pursue in a career in construction.

“I have spent time training as an engineer, site manager and quantity surveyor on numerous projects, both new build and refurb. The breadth of knowledge acquired from each allows me a well-rounded view of a project and will help my understanding and communication with colleagues from other departments through my career, as I’ve had some experience working in their role and knowledge of the challenges they face.

“As a QS in the Estimating department I’ve learned what an important role the team plays in securing future work for the business, it is fundamental in allowing the business to grow. Being involved and witnessing key decisions being made by senior colleagues is a great experience to have and one that will benefit me throughout my career.”


Alex Galloway, from Lymm, secured a First in Quantity Surveying and is currently an assistant estimator / QS working from head office in Trafford Park.

He joined the Building Student Programme age 18 after completing a week’s work experience while studying for his A-levels at Sixth Form.

He said: “I have been fortunate enough to work on live projects while also studying at university which has provided the platform for me to enhance my knowledge and begin learning about the industry from an early stage. The variety of different roles and scheme types I’ve worked on ranges from listed heritage refurbishment to new build apartments and revamped office spaces.

“I knew from that first week of work experience that this would be a great career for me. The placement was fantastic. I did a couple of days with the surveying and estimating departments, before going out on site to visit projects like Axis and Oxygen towers, schemes which are now fully complete and operational. Reflecting back, pre-construction provides a great insight into the work that goes into a construction project and understanding that makes seeing the final product even more impressive.

“I’d recommend the Building Student programme to anyone. The support the company has provided has been brilliant. Not only is the degree fully funded, but the in-house training is fantastic and career progression has been great. I am now looking to become chartered with the RICS and complete my APC in the coming months, all with the continued support of the company.”


George Carus, from Blackburn, gained a First in Quantity Surveying and is now enjoying working as assistant QS on the new residential home for Care UK in Wilmslow, Cheshire.

He knew he wanted to do a professional apprenticeship in quantity surveying and applied to the Building Student programme at 18 after finding the scheme on the official government apprenticeship website.

He said: “I’d had a week’s worth of work experience at a quantity surveying consultancy and got an insight into the role and responsibilities of a quantity surveyor; to be involved with estimating and costing, managing project finances and contractual relationships. From this experience, I developed an interest in the commercial aspect of construction, and this encouraged me to pursue a career in construction.

“After finishing my A-levels I was already set with applying for an apprenticeship programme instead of going to university full time, because I felt I would learn and develop much more with real life experience in tandem with university studies.

“The Russell WBHO Building Student Programme was also recommended to me by other construction professionals because of the valuable experience gained from working in the industry day to day. Being able to combine the two, and benefit from the degree course being funded by the company while I also earned a wage, made the programme even more attractive.”


James Ashton, from Ashton-Under-Lyne, graduated with a First in Construction Project Management and is now working as assistant site manager on the Duerrs factory extension project in Wythenshawe.

He joined the Building Student programme age 19 after undertaking an electrical installation course and working part-time as a landscape gardener. James knew he wanted to pursue a career in construction and saw the programme as an opportunity to do so while also gaining a university degree.

He said: “Over the past five years I have gained invaluable experience working on an array of diverse projects. I’ve been involved with city centre high-rise developments – from foundation to completion – the refurbishment of listed buildings, industrial extensions and warehouses. With all these projects, I have been fortunate to acquire a breadth of new skills and knowledge.

“The Building Student programme is a great platform for professional development and, I believe, offers a distinct advantage over traditional university degrees. Working alongside experienced industry professionals has been instrumental in my growth, as it has provided me with ample opportunities to seek guidance, ask questions, and learn from their expertise.

“As I have progressed through the programme, I have been entrusted with significant responsibilities and increasing level of ownership in managing individual packages and overseeing smaller projects. This hands-on experience has instilled in me a heightened sense of confidence when interacting with operatives and management on-site.

“This programme is a great stepping stone that reflects my career aspirations and has given me a clear direction forward into management roles.”