Drew Nelson: Building a legacy, brick by brick

In 1987 Mackenzie Construction employed Bricklayer, Drew Nelson, initially for a 3-week project in Irvine, which evolved into 33 years of service before he officially retired as a Foreman in the summer of 2020.

Having worked for the business for so many years, Drew has countless well-told tales and stories about the people, places and projects that kept him engaged and happy in his career. Drew has always taken talent development seriously and taught countless apprentices throughout his career. Jonathan Gilmore, who began working with Mackenzie Construction 21 years ago, aged 16 as Trainee Bricklayer, is now a Foreman himself. He remembers his first few months working as an apprentice under Drew as anything but easy.

“We didn’t always see eye to eye at the start of our relationship, which is probably fairly normal given I was a teenager getting into the world of work and trying to learn, but I can definitely say now that Drew is a great teacher. He’s a big guy, so I was a bit scared of him at first and it didn’t help that I was pretty hopeless when I started. Over the years, we built up a great working relationship. He taught me everything I know.”

Considering this dedication to talent development, Drew said,

“When I began working in construction all those years ago, it was a very different environment. The building trade has always had an element of sharing knowledge and passing on your skills to ensure that we all do things the right way – that’s the way I was taught! One of the biggest lessons is, if something is worth doing, it’s worth doing right.

“The apprentices I had in recent years are no different. We work on the technical skills they need to learn, as well as on the right attitude to working in a site environment. Of course, they need to be sure they’re working safely and using the skills correctly and apprentices not only contribute to the work on site, they are the future of the industry.”

A respected member of the team, having played the roles of foreman, manager, trainer and mentor for the duration of his career, Drew has decided to continue his passion for developing people into his retirement, passing on his knowledge, skill and technical experience to the next generation of workers through the Mackenzie Training Academy.

Speaking on Drew’s retirement and his role within the Training Academy, Jonathan laughed,

“I don’t really feel like he has retired as I still speak to him most days! He’ll be great working in the Academy and continuing to develop our team. His positivity makes learning enjoyable and he is always laughing about something. They’ll be entertained, as much as benefitting from his skills and experience, and that’s a great way for people to learn.”

When asked to share his thoughts on training and development at Mackenzie Construction, Drew said,

“Mackenzie Construction has always been good to me and it is a great company to work for. They listen to staff and always encourage the team to try new ideas to improve the way we work. They take our thoughts and opinions into consideration and that is something I’ve always thought was brilliant.

“I’m glad to be retired, of course, but I am equally happy to be able to give back to the team and the business that has given so much to me over the years. I hope that I can continue to add value through my role as Trainer with the Training Academy for many years to come.”