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'Meet a...' Head of Contracts: Andy Harrison

'Meet a...' is Groundwork Youth Hub's new careers series aiming to highlight the people behind the job titles and introduce you to a range of roles inside and outside of Groundwork. Meet our staff, partners, friends, and supporters and find out their journey to where they are now. We hope these interviews inspire you!

Our PR Officer, Stacey had a chat with Andy to find out more about his role with Groundwork - that began 13 years ago - and learns all about his inner artist! 

SA/Gwk Youth: Hi Andy! What is your role and what does it involve?

AH: I’m Head of Contracts at Groundwork UK so my role is managing big pieces of work for the organisation. It’s very varied so lots of meetings, lots of problem-solving as well as developing new projects and ideas.

SA/Gwk Youth: So would you say that you have a typical working day?

AH: No two days are the same! I’m based in the office but regularly have visits and meetings, with our Trusts and with partners and stakeholders to develop new ideas.

SA/Gwk Youth: How long have you worked at Groundwork?

AH: 13 years!

SA/Gwk Youth: Wow! So what was your first role at Groundwork?

AH: I was the Programmes Support in the Programmes team. It was all on paper in those days - I used to open the post and log the data. There was quite a lot of filing and photocopying! I’ve had five jobs in between, but it’s always been in programmes and projects, each role getting a bit more challenging as I went along which has been good for my development.

SA/Gwk Youth: After 13 years you must have seen and experienced a lot of things with Groundwork. What is your favourite thing about working for the charity?

AH: Groundwork is a very positive place to work. Of course, it’s not like that every day. I think people can think that when you work for a charity you go home with a warm glow every evening, which can’t always be the case. But there is always that knowledge that you are working towards a constructive and positive goal so it’s easy to be motivated, especially when you see the work happening across the Federation.

SA/Gwk Youth: Have you ever completed a work experience or internship?

AH: I completed a work experience placement for Key Gas Engineering in Warwick. I was on the shop floor of a factory. My dad is an Engineer, so I think he wanted to push me towards it. It was fun, but it did mean me getting up very early in the morning on my dad’s insistence that I do proper hours!

SA/Gwk Youth: Did you go to University? If so, what did you study?

AH: I did - I went to Leeds University and studied Environmental Management as I had a broad interest in regeneration. I had a very good Geography teacher who pushed me in that direction. He was very inspiring and cared about the people he was teaching and he picked out that course for me. So it was all down to Mr. Winter!

SA/Gwk Youth: Good old, Mr. Winter! What was your ever first job?

AH: When I was 16 I had a job in Homebase mixing paint on the paint mixing machine. It’s all automated now – the magic’s gone!  Before I joined Groundwork I worked at the Law Society working with complaints every day – so as you can imagine, coming to Groundwork felt a lot more positive.

SA/Gwk Youth: Did you have a favourite subject at school?

AH: I liked Art – I did it for A Level. I was reasonably good at it and it was more of an informal learning environment. I did my final A Level project about graffiti and street art. I came out to Selly Oak (in Birmingham) and did some field work. I never actually spray painted anything though! I submitted my final project in handmade graffiti tube made out of a piece of old drain I found in my dad’s garage – it might still be in my mum and dads loft!

SA/Gwk Youth: You should have sent it to Art Attack! Did you know what you wanted to be when you were younger?

AH: When I was very young I wanted to be a Train Driver as I had an electric train set and thought it was the best thing ever. I didn’t really know at school and then when I came into my teenage years was when I started to become interested in the environment. 

SA/Gwk Youth: Do you think there is a pressure on young people that if they don’t know what they want to do they have to go to university?

AH: Yes definitely. But I think from the work Groundwork has done with young people it’s obvious that that isn’t always the right path and there are great opportunities for young people in apprenticeships.

SA/Gwk Youth: Very true! If you could swap roles with anyone in Groundwork who would it be?

AH: Probably Mo (Groundwork Programmes Co-ordinator) in the Programmes Team – it would be interesting to work on our Tesco ‘Bags of Help’ programme. Maybe comms, although I don’t have enough creativity…

SA/Gwk Youth: You submitted an art project in handmade graffiti can!

AH: That’s true! Communications it is!

SA/Gwk Youth: What advice would you give to your younger self about your career?

AH: It’s drummed into people that it’s hard to get a job nowadays, so I think I would just tell people not to panic. When I was 16 I wasn’t switched on to the different careers out there. People lead varied and interesting paths to where ever they end up. It’s important to like what you do if you can possibly achieve that as you spend too much time at work to be miserable.

SA/Gwk Youth: How do you prepare for a presentation?

AH: I’m a big planner – I always structure what I’m going to say but I don’t script it. I like to know what I’m talking about then it comes across as a lot more natural. If you over prepare you tend to worry even more.

SA/Gwk Youth: Good advice! Finally, what’s the best career advice that you have always stood by?

AH: Our first Groundwork director, Richard Sharland, was a very inspirational character. He sat me down as part of my induction and asked me what I wanted to achieve and said I could do what I wanted to do. He helped me move forward and having that support really helped. 13 years later and I’m still here – so it must have worked!

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