Construction is more than the built environment: Eve Livett shares how she is strengthening material and training quality for the UK 

Eve Livett took an unconventional path to her current role as CEO of the Association of Brickwork Contractors (ABC). After beginning her career as a singer, she now serves as a key figure in the construction industry. Over the past six years, she has revitalized the ABC, focusing on quality, compliance, and fostering a network of trusted names within the sector. “I fell in love with brick and working for the trade association for manufacturers. What we do is all about design and how brick looks, and what architects can do to make brick look wonderful. The ABC was something in which I could see so much potential, and, at the time, it was becoming a bit stagnant, so I pushed for the role of developing the association, and it’s been a brilliant journey since,” she expresses.

The ABC represents large brickwork contractors across the UK’s construction supply chain. Through advocating for their interests and collaborating with other organisations, the association has garnered a stringent membership process and emphasizes a code of conduct that promotes quality. Additionally, the ABC has a secondary membership for manufacturers and suppliers, which organises networking events to strengthen the supply chain further. “We work collaboratively with other organisations on their behalf to sustain their workflows and increase productivity. We like to set the bar high. The promotion of quality and compliance is very important for construction, and I hope that what I’m starting to grow with the ABC is a trusted network of competent employers, on which contractors and clients can rely and rest assured that the materials will be dependable.”

Eve Livett, CEO Association of Brickwork Contractors

To further buttress the ABC, Eve’s latest initiative, the ABC Assessment Centre, was established in 2018 to address fraudulent practices in construction qualifications. The centre provides trusted training for bricklaying and supports employer-led training initiatives. “The motivation really was as a response to a major issue in construction at that time, which was the fraudulent gain of the Level Two in Bricklaying. ABC members at the time were becoming increasingly unproductive because of the fraudulent access to this blue-skilled card. Contractors were taking on individuals with blue cards, under the impression that they were competent to do the job. They weren’t at all because a swathe of training providers just wanted to gain money and weren’t upholding the standards. When I joined, I knew that had to change. That was a major influence for the ABC Assessment Centre and its birth. It gave brickwork contractors the peace of mind that they were getting a trusted professional, who was robust and had worthwhile training. Another influence was my desire to support employer-led training initiatives,” Eve shares, adding that the organization has since played a pivotal role in aligning members with the Building Safety Act and the

Building Safety Bill.
Furthermore, in 2023, the ABC secured a four-year contract for the Brickwork Upskilling programme, which targets the homebuilding sector to enhance productivity. The programme includes partnerships with colleges and aims to bring practical and theoretical training to students. From Eve’s perspective, as helpful as theoretical training is, many students entering the construction sector lack hands-on experience. This makes working on site more overwhelming. Eve’s hope is that the Brickwork Upskilling Programme will better equip students for real situations, and improve site safety.

Bridging the gap
The unique approach integrates construction site elements into classrooms, bridging the gap between education and employment. The goal is to reach 2000 individuals over three years and address the UK’s housing crisis by facilitating employment in construction. When asked about the role the ABC plays within the homebuilding sector, Eve highlights that their primary focus is commercial. However, she is keen to replicate the programme elsewhere. “I’ll be working with homebuilders to try to improve skills. Homebuilders have difficulty with quality on their sites, which has a lot to do with procurement. Hopefully, by working with them, we can try and alleviate some of the problems they’re facing. We are working with the National House Building Council to identify the areas that are most problematic in homebuilding sites. So, we will mimic that within our training for colleges. Because the model works commercially, there is no reason why the model can’t work for home building.”

Securing the sector’s future
Despite facing challenges like Brexit, Grenfell, the war in Ukraine, and the impacts of Covid-19, the construction industry has demonstrated impressive resilience, which is one aspect that Eve is particularly keen to highlight. “It’s very easy for us to forget that there are aspects of the industry that are doing really well, and the fact that we have been able to push through some pretty devastating challenges proves that construction is working hard to be better.” The ABC, through its collaborative platform, addresses common issues faced by members, fostering communication and adaptability. Eve emphasizes the importance of collaboration in overcoming the challenges and driving industry innovation.

Looking ahead, Eve envisions the ABC playing a more supportive role within its community. The association plans to work with the Ministry of Justice as well, and will explore new ways to recruit and train individuals for the construction sector. Eve’s commitment to growing the association internally and externally reflects her dedication to shaping the ABC into a dynamic and influential force within the industry. “Five years ago, I would have never thought of doing something like this, so I’m really proud of what we’ve achieved in this time. Going forward, I’m looking forward to working with prisons as a means to grow our workforce. We are always looking at new ways of recruiting into the sector, so I’d like to work with the Ministry of Justice, in terms of employment and recruitment. Fortunately, because we have the ABC assessment centre, we have a unique ability to train well,” Eve expresses.

Additionally, the industry can expect some exciting projects from the ABC in 2024, and Eve is continually working to improve the organisation’s operation. “I’ve only worked here for five years and five years ago, the ABC wasn’t moving at all. We had 11 full members, and now we have over 35, which is fantastic, but there’s still more to do,” Eve concludes. Organisations like the ABC continue to reinforce the UK’s construction sector with quality and dependability. Considering the issues that have arisen over the last three or so years – material availability, supply chain disruption, and even quality management like the latest RAAC crisis – the ABC and others serve as integral guardians of the industry’s welfare, and ensure that the future of the UK’s built environment is safe and secure.