Richard Allen has used his foundation of experience gained from instrumental roles in civil engineering projects to build his own company, specialising in groundworks and civil engineering labour supply to the construction industry.
The Director of civil engineering specialists Skilled Labour Services Ltd has a revered reputation with an impressive portfolio of clients including leading construction contractors, Balfour Beatty, Knights Brown and Volker Group.
Here, Richard gives insight into his constructive specialisms as well as his people-first culture, resounding in a commitment to playing a part in addressing issues such as mental health in the industry.
Can you give some insight into your specialisms?
We specialise in the provision of labour for groundworks and civil engineering construction projects including highways, housing developments, commercial and industrial building and sea defences.
The idea is that we seamlessly complement clients’ labour force whenever they require additional resources.
We’ve worked on some of the most prestigious contracts in the south over the last ten years including the groundworks for the Bombay Sapphire gin distillery and the Hindhead tunnel on the A3.
When we started to plan for the next ten years, reflecting on our journey so far played an important role in ensuring Skilled Labour Services stays true to its founding principles and core values.
Can you tell us about your work with sea defences; is the demand for these increasing as the geographical nature of our region’s coastline is changing?
The rebuild of Hurst Spit was my first big sea defence job 20 years ago, whilst working for Dean & Dyball. It was going to wash away completely so it was a multimillion-pound project to rebuild the shingle bank.
I’ve worked on several rock groynes projects, including Lee-on-the-Solent. More recently, we’ve supplied labour to coastal defence projects in Tipner in Portsmouth.
Our case study on sea defences can be found here:
There’s always a lot of sea defence work in this region, with the anticipation of further rises in sea levels the work continues on to the next weakest point.
You’re an advocate of raising awareness about Mental Health in the Construction Industry, how are you playing your part?
The mental health aspect is huge, because the most common cause of death for men aged 20-49 in the UK is suicide.
It’s prevalent in construction because it’s a sector with long hours and uncertain income because a lot of work is temporary. They’re not big, cuddly companies; construction companies are quite cold.
We’ve done quite a lot of work as a business on mental health and our Business Support Manager Liane is a Mental Health First Aider.
We try and look after our people as best as we can with regards to mental health.
When approaching a large construction project, what are your work processes to manage the job efficiently?
Planning and organisation. You need to have very good policies and procedures in place. Your health and safety, financial, equality and HR policies all need to be top notch, having those systems is almost as important as the actual services supplying the people against them.
You’ve just got to understand the construction process on that particular job and all the logistical challenges.
What influence do you think the opening of a place like the Old Bond Store , the location of SLS’s new head office has had on Southampton’s entrepreneurial culture?
You learn so much just by being there and meeting other members. Whatever problem you’ve got, there’s always someone there who either has a similar problem or knows how to solve it.
There’s a lot of commonality between very different companies, everyone’s had the same challenges this year, it doesn’t matter what industry you’re in.
It can be a lonely place being an owner of a company and it’s made easier by having the solidarity of the Old Bond Store community.
“There’s a lot of commonality between very different companies, everyone’s had the same challenges this year, it doesn’t matter what industry you’re in.”
Who do you admire?
Long distance running gives me my headspace. I run on the South Downs way and along the coast. I’ve done 38 marathons, I run anything from marathons up to 100 miles and I’m the Chair of Hedge End Running Club.
There’s actually quite a science to long-distance running and I admire people who focus on a challenge and push the boundaries of what’s never been done before in terms of human capability like Eliud Kipchoge who ran the sub two-hour marathon.
Connect with Richard on Linkedin