It may be an obvious statement to make – as every profession inevitably changes over time – but a career in demolition now looks significantly different from how it did when I was 16.

Richard Vann web

Richard Vann says there are many varied job roles available to young people looking to establish themselves in demolition

Gone are the days when an itinerant workforce waited to be picked up at a bus stop for cash-in-hand work that would tide them over for a few days.

Demolition was something of a dirty word then. It wasn’t considered to offer a serious career path – it was simply a job for people who didn’t have many other options. Or perhaps, for a select few, if their father had worked in the industry before them.

There was no formal training, and certainly nothing like the continuing professional development we know now.

You would climb a chimney one day, learn how to operate an excavator the next, and then move on to be a wagon banksman.

Knowledge transfer

Fast forward to 2019 and things have, thankfully, evolved considerably.

While demolition is not yet perfect, an ambassadorial stance amongst industry professionals has served to stamp out unsavoury practices. International conferences now seek to shine a light on best practice, and knowledge transfer is commonplace. Formalised training options are plentiful, and potential career paths are rich and varied.

So, what would I say to a 16-year-old starting out in this industry?

Firstly, I’d ask them what it is about demolition that interests them? Of all the engineering disciplines they could go into, why this one? These reasons and subsequent discussions could shape their future, so it’s important to acknowledge the drivers for their intended career.

Demolition is a small and specialist area of civil engineering, but there are many varied job roles the 16-year-old could aspire to hold. Does the design of demolition projects excite them, or the management of complex on-site programmes? Is it the practical side of demolition execution, such as driving plant, that they are eager to learn? Or are they an aspiring structural engineer?

They could have a particular interest in explosives, perhaps – and surely nobody would deny the fact that we need far more people with this niche area of expertise. Are they passionate about minimising the environmental impact of demolition schemes? Or has the containment of hazardous materials captured their curiosity?

If our 16-year-old doesn’t know that all these options exist, we need to be telling more young people about them. A career in demolition can be challenging, exciting and fulfilling. Yes, the job is a little tougher when it involves a 4am start, or a day spent out in the chilling wind and rain. But it is a growing market, globally, and much-needed skill-sets are in decline. So now, more than ever, is a perfect time to enter the industry.

Continued ambition

Some 16-year-olds will be very focused on the here and now, and we should never be too quick to criticise anyone who simply wants to enjoy the present. But for those who do consider where their career could take them, I don’t think they’ll be disappointed.

They could arm themselves with a raft of professional qualifications for instance. One guy I know is currently studying for an MBA with the Open University while running a huge demolition programme in the north west of England. He already has an established skill-set and an impressive CV but he is hungry to develop, and we should welcome this continued ambition.

Our 16-year-old may spot a new market opportunity of course, that as yet remains untapped. For me, the introduction of Construction (Design and Management) regulations in 1992 prompted the birth of RVA Group. But what else will the future hold for demolition entrepreneurs?

I would like to see more explosives engineers. I’d like more demolition professionals to export their expertise worldwide, to foster truly cross-cultural best practice irrespective of location.

I’d like to see us harness more technologies to further strengthen safety standards on sites that are inherently hazardous. To see more diversity and equality within the workforce.

And I’d like the industry to better engage with young people so that they struggle to find a reason not to enter the demolition profession.

So, how many 16-year-olds do we know who would fit perfectly into our world? Or perhaps who could mix it up entirely?

  • This article first appeared in the May-June 2019 issue of Demolition & Recycling International. To see the full issue, or to register to receive the magazine on a regular basis, please visit www.khl.com/subscriptions
Demolition & Recycling International July-August 2019 1

Demolition & Recycling International - July-August 2019

Included in the issue: 

  • WORLD NEWS 
    Another record year for World Demolition Awards; Turcot Interchange project to feature at Summit; CECE leads circular economy call; Metso acquires McCloskey; decommissioning of nuclear power plants set to grow; O’Keefe in four-time safety award win; AR Demolition goes for remediation relaunch; EDA hails successful Japan study tour
  • INTERVIEW – JET DEMOLITION 
    American Joe Brinkmann grew up in farming, graduated in engineering and now heads an award-winning South African demolition contractor
  • EXCAVATORS
    Manufacturers find themselves meeting increasing challenges
  • D&RI100 HEADLINERS 
    A more detailed look at the stories behind the numbers for some of the companies involved in our annual listing of contractors by turnover
  • SPECIAL FEATURE – METSO & CAREY’S
    Two companies celebrating differing milestones during mid-2019
  • RECYCLING AKTIV SHOW GUIDE
    D&Ri looks ahead to Recycling Aktiv, the demonstration trade fair for recycling machines and systems taking place in Germany in September
  • HYBRID TECHNOLOGY
    How does technology tie in with what the customer wants to achieve?
  • HYDRODEMOLITION
    A challenging project at an oil terminal in Nigeria
  • WORLD DEMOLITION SUMMIT
    A look at the 10th anniversary of the World Demolition Awards
  • OPINION – RICHARD VANN
    Exactly how important is stakeholder engagement in demolition?
  • EQUIPMENT
    Demarec and Hammer to merge; Liebherr lightens the load for Dowideit Recycling in Germany; Costello Dismantling boosts volumes with Genesis bucket crushers; Sandvik introduces nextgeneration impact crusher
  • EDA NEWS
    All set for Think Tank 2019;Industry Report on its way

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