News Mar 2021

Q&A with Niamh McCann, seconded Project Manager at CRASH

Well designed and expertly built environments have a positive effect on how we all feel and behave. This is especially true for vulnerable homeless people and children and adults with a life-limiting illness. Meet Niamh McCann, a Project Manager seconded from Corporate Patron Arcadis to manage our construction projects with homelessness charities and hospices. We asked Niamh about her experience of working with CRASH since joining in 2019.

How would you describe the secondment in three words?

Interesting, varied, invaluable.

What made you choose the secondment?

I wanted to gain experience in the charitable sector and to learn how my knowledge and experience in the construction industry could be utilised in a different way and for a new client base. I was also keen to better understand the work of CRASH and how Corporate Patron Companies like my employer Arcadis, underpin the work of the charity.

What have you learnt?

Before working with CRASH, I had no idea about the variety of hospices and homelessness charities across the UK. It has been inspiring to see the dedication and hard work of these charities, the range of services they provide and the impact they have.

I very quickly learnt just how broad and immersive the role of CRASH Projects Manager is. During my Secondment so far, I have realised that the charities CRASH supports need help, not just with project management but also with understanding construction more generally so now I support them with the entire construction process through 1-2-1 advice and workshops.

I have also learnt just how valuable CRASH’s Corporate Patron Companies are! They quite literally underpin the work of the charity. The range of construction expertise and construction products they have is vast and the opportunities that CRASH presents them with to get involved in projects which are different to their usual workload, to use their skills to help those in need and to network with all of CRASH’s other Patrons, is fantastic.

What has been your biggest achievement?

Over the past 12 months, despite the COVID-19 pandemic, I have helped 28 charities with their construction projects. This has included everything from an extension at a hospice to increase the number of patients who can be cared for, to the internal reconfiguration of a hostel to make sure no one has to share a bedroom, to maintenance plans to help charities forecast their future expenditure. The impact of the global pandemic has adversely affected those that CRASH helps, so to have been able to continue supporting them and making sure their buildings serve them as well as they possibly can has been wonderful and something that I am immensely proud of.

How has the secondment to date, helped with your career progression?

This secondment has broadened my professional network both at a Senior level within Arcadis and with CRASH’s other Corporate Patron Companies. The role has allowed me to further hone my skills in presenting (be that to the Board of Trustees, a charity applying to CRASH, a new Corporate Patron or to the Government’s Taskforce on homelessness) and allowed me to work with a client base that is different to any that I have done before. This role has gained me recognition at my employer which is beneficial to my career progression.

What do you think is unique/special about CRASH?

CRASH is unique!

It is a practical charity that harnesses the skills, products and generosity of the construction industry to create caring environments for vulnerable people.

CRASH is only a small team (3 full-time members of staff and 2 part-time) but it is CRASH’s ability to draw on the knowledge and skills of its Corporate Patron Companies that means it can deliver many projects across the UK each year.

Lots of Patrons may be involved in one project so whilst one company might “only” be doing a cost plan or “only” reviewing a design, they are in fact helping to create places that improve lives, give people a safe place with a roof over their head or help a family when their loved one needs end of life care in a hospice. Even if a Patron company isn’t specifically involved in a project, they underpin each and everyone through their annual donation to CRASH and without them, CRASH would not be celebrating its 25th anniversary this year!

Would you recommend the secondment with CRASH?

Absolutely, without any hesitation!

It is lovely to be able to help charities who are experts at what they do but are inexperienced with construction, complete building projects. These are projects that make a massive difference to the charities, the people they support and the services they are able to offer. This role has allowed me to travel across the UK (pre-COVID-19) meeting charities who need CRASH’s help and seeing the wonderful work of CRASH in action.

> If you would like to learn more about secondment opportunities with CRASH, please contact Niamh at projectmanager@crash.org.uk.

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