I joined PCE over 10 years prior to the decade of 1993-2003. The third decade of PCE’s journey, as with all decades of PCE’s existence, saw continued growth and evolution; not just of the business, but of its people, too.
Joining the company as a carpenter, I rapidly gained the trust of the company’s founder, Vince Wetton. Vince had always been able to recognise qualities in people and took a lot of pride in helping his workforce develop. This is a quality I really valued in Vince; it is an ethos that has really inspired and influenced the business in its approach to people. By 1993, I had progressed to the position of Site Foreman, running sites and dealing with clients. Over the course of this decade, I progressed, as personal development was, and still is, the culture at PCE, so that by 2003, I was in the role of Contracts Manager.
PCE has always been a company evolving with the times, forever adapting to meet ever-changing industry needs. Being a man of the people, Vince truly recognised that for PCE to be its best, the people working for PCE needed to be their best. And thus the culture of training and developing people continued, and perhaps even accelerated during the company’s third decade. An ever-growing emphasis on health and safety, as It has always been integral at PCE for every person to go home safely each day, plus the gradual introduction of developing technology available across the industry meant PCE needed to upskill to embrace these changes.
Vince prioritised a family-like environment within the company, especially during 1993-2003. His dedication to employee well-being was central to PCE's ethos. PCE constantly adapted to industry shifts, emphasizing training, safety, and embracing evolving technologies. Safety measures like MEWPS and scissor lifts were introduced, reflecting the commitment to securing a safe workplace. PCE's enduring concern for every individual's safety and well-being has maintained its people-centric focus throughout its journey. During this decade, there were instances where PCE missed out on projects due to pricing them accurately, factoring in the implementation of the highest health and safety standards possible. However, PCE's rising reputation and clients appreciating these standards did lead to sustained growth and project success.
Whilst the company had started to introduce computerisation prior to 1993, this decade saw its rapid growth, not only within the offices but also out on site, where the introduction of them was a tricky concept for me. I was typing using one finger, slowly navigating my way around this new piece of revolutionary machinery, much smaller than the machinery I was used to seeing on site! It was a learning process, but we got there because the business needed to grow with the times. We all embraced the technology that was available, and continually expanding, developing a good platform for digitisation which continues to grow.
The company’s third decade also saw the first iteration of an employee ownership scheme. Shares in PCE at beneficial prices were made available for employees; it was important to Vince and to PCE that employees were benefitting from additional financial reward, recognising their efforts and contributions towards PCE’s success. It was also important that employees felt a sense of ownership at PCE, not just for the impact it would have on PCE’s success, but to strengthen and grow the important family-feel culture.
Across 1993 to 2003, there were several interesting projects. One standout project from this era was the Churchill Square Multi-Storey car park in Brighton, distinguished by its elliptical columns and high architectural detailing, so that even the soffit of the bearer beams were curved. I’d never seen these elliptical columns used before, and those supporting cantilevered areas were of composite structural steel encased with reinforced concrete. During the tender process, PCE were heavily involved with the successful design and build precast concrete contractor, Tarmac Precast Ltd, in ensuring the innovative architectural solution developed could be constructed, to deliver the impressive car park. For this project, I was the construction foreman, and we took on a number of additional labourers to sweep and clean up as the project progressed, one of whom was called Nickie Brown. From this humble beginning in PCE, Nickie rose through the ranks during the remainder of this decade, and in following years to become the company’s Managing Director in 2007.
Another project was the construction of Gatwick Airport’s acoustic wall. Standing over 11m high and 430m long, the acoustic wall was designed to protect nearby residents from aircraft noise. Representing an outstanding use of concrete, the solution provided ideal acoustic qualities, delivered to site on a just in time bases with the erection by PCE providing an excellent and uniform standard of finish. Once again PCE had worked closely with the successful precast concrete contractor, Buchan Ltd, to ensure the logistics of constructing the wall at such a major airport did not disrupt flight operations.
PCE was not just working in the South of England, but as usual during this period throughout the UK and was heavily involved in determining the construction feasibility working for Tarmac Precast Ltd, of the Greenock Waterfront Leisure Centre as designed by Architects Faulkner Brown, A stand out feature of the project was the curved 3 storey high precast concrete ‘tusks’ and associated precast structure designed to represent the remains of a ship.
This decade was a period of immense growth and development for both PCE and myself. The exposure to varied and challenging projects, coupled with constant support from Vince Wetton and the PCE team, propelled my career development. By 2003, I had ascended to the role of Contracts Manager. These developmental opportunities, combined with the enduring family-like culture at PCE, are available to all employees today in an even more professional manner.
Ian Barton is a leading example of how careers can develop at PCE. Joining as a Carpenter in the early 1980’s Ian is now PCE’s Head of Construction and as such his knowledge and input to how projects are assembled on site by the PCE Construction teams helps to ensure the highest standards of performance, quality, and health and safety that the company is renowned for by all of its clients. Just as Ian was helped to develop so he is always willing to help and assist in training the future on-site leadership of the business.
Figure 1 and 2: Gatwick Airport’s acoustic wall
Figure 3: Greenock Waterfront Leisure Centre
Figure 4 and 5: Churchill Square Multi-Storey car park, Brighton
Figure 6: Blog author, Ian Barton