Fast Track: A-Z of Employers
Thursday 10 September 1998
History: The company's first headquarters were founded by James Laing in the Cumbrian village of Sebergham, a site that was later taken over by the Salvation Army and is now used as a holiday home. During the 19th century the company was noted for its visionary schemes; it promoted pension and health provisions across the industry, and grew rapidly in the early part of this century when John Laing took the helm. In the Fifties and Sixties it became almost a national institution, with contracts to build parts of the M1 and reconstruct Coventry Cathedral. Although the company was hit by the recession, more recently it has been leading the way with the Private Finance Initiative; projects include the new Norfolk and Norwich Hospital, the MoD's Joint Service Command and staff college, and an extension to Manchester's Metrolink light railway. Other projects include the Greenwich Millennium Experience, the new Parliamentary buildings and Cardiff's millennium stadium.
Address: Around 120 people are based at the headquarters in Mill Hill, London. Offices around the UK include those in Hemel Hempstead, Birmingham, Newcastle and Manchester. Graduates work on sites all around the UK.
Ambience: "It's a dynamic, go-getting environment," says a spokesman, a comment that is belied by the Corporate Research Foundation, which found the company's employees to be, on the whole, "industrious, family-oriented and non-controversial". The company's newspaper, Team Spirit, has been distributed since the early days; the company's own charitable trust helps with pensioners' heating bills; and the firm is known for its environmentally friendly policies.
Vital statistics: Annual turnover last year exceeded pounds 1.4bn, with pre- tax profits of pounds 32.2m. The group employs more than 6,500 people world- wide.
Lifestyle: Much internal promotion goes on, and secondments abroad have been a key feature for graduate employees. In the past, graduates have been placed in Europe, the Far East, India and South Africa; there are also opportunities for self-starters to learn foreign languages. Employees who get sick are well looked after, with a permanent health scheme, and, amazingly, the company's thousands of ex-employee pensioners are visited every six months by the company's welfare officers.
Easy to get into? Laing currently recruits 50 to 60 graduates each year - mostly with degrees in civil engineering, building and quantity surveying - and sponsors another 40 or 50 at university: it has particularly strong links with Loughborough, Salford and Umist. The company's remit includes construction across most industry sectors, including civil engineering, infrastructure operations, technical design and capital investment.
Glittering alumni: Two construction bosses - John Armitt, now chief executive of Costain, and Oliver Whitehead at Alfred McAlpine - previously headed up John Laing's civil engineering department.
Pay: Those working in the South-east start on pounds 15,500; elsewhere, salaries are lower. There are twice-yearly reviews, and substantial mobility allowances - up to pounds 5,000 a year. Senior staff get free Bupa care, and all employees benefit from a non-contributory pension scheme.
Training: Builders and quantity surveyors are put through a two-year scheme, leading to chartered status; for engineers, it's three years. There's also a learning network, where employees can ring in and order computer training packages.
Facilities: Staff at Mill Hill use the sports complex at nearby Elstree, including cricket, golf, football, bowls and tennis facilities. But, in time-honoured builders' fashion, you have to bring your own sandwiches to work - there are few canteens on sites.
Who's the boss? The group's chairman is Sir Martin Laing, grandson of John Laing, who built up the company in the Twenties and Thirties. His deputy is Robert Wood.
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