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Shifting gear

Names & Faces - James Wates is preparing for the challenge of chairing the Construction Confederation by tackling the Tour de France.

Newly appointed chairman of the Construction Confederation James Wates says he is looking forward to a 'busy and productive year'. Kicking it off by tackling a chunk of the Tour de France for charity is certainly a positive start.

And accentuating the positive is what Wates hopes to do in his year at the helm of the Confederation, which acts as an umbrella body for six construction groups, including the Civil Engineering Contractors Association, the Major Contractors Group and Scottish Building.

'I do not think this places me as a starry-eyed optimist but rather as a realist, ' he says. 'I recognise that there are areas where we need to do better, but there is so much good work being achieved across our sector that if we choose to ignore it we will fail to maximise the potential benefits.

'For example, by all means let us note the lessons arising out of the disappointments of the Wembley project, however, at the same time, we should identify the positives in successful projects such as the building of the new Arsenal football club stadium at Ashburton Grove.

'The trick is to apply these aspects of best practice to future work - and where better for us to use the lessons learned than the 2012 Olympic construction programme, probably the most high-profile project in recent UK history.' Wates joined the family company, Wates Group, in 1983 and was made a director in 1997. He also chairs the Strategic Forum for Construction, the Confederation having taken over the secretariat of the Forum from the Construction Industry Council for the next 12 months.

His experiences with the Forum lead him to another theme for his year in office. 'There will be a drive to ensure that the Confederation, as well as industry as a whole, manages to harness its collective strength and punch its weight to influence improvements across our sector.

Continued fective representation at the highest level of government has to be our aim. We must influence government to ensure a sustained infrastructure spending programme and to encourage its actions as a best-practice client.

'The public sector, construction's major client, is a key driver in improving our industry through its procurement programme. It should encourage and reward those suppliers who have improved health and safety, who look after their workforce, who train and upskill them, who are improving quality and who are giving better value.

'That the public sector client should procure on best value and not just lowest price is the message we will keep hammering home.'

Career highlight

My first job as project manager - my first command.

Career lowlight

The first site meeting on that job - they got better.

Most amazing fact Born with one arm. I play first-team rugby and golf off 20 - although I've never made a big thing of it.

Thing you wouldn't be without I say I'm available 24/7 so it would have to be my phone.

Favourite place London is the most exciting place on Earth.

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