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Graham Manly, Honorary Doctor

Graham has promoted many apprenticeships and training schemes, funded scholarships and bursaries and acted as a mentor and STEM ambassador

The newest Honorary Doctor to join the School of The Built Environment and Architecture is Graham Manly OBE. Over the course of his 50-year career, Graham has done much to raise the profile of the industry among young people, promoting apprenticeships and training schemes, funding numerous scholarships and bursaries and acting as a mentor and STEM ambassador

Returning to LSBU

"I started my career at LSBU (at the National College, now the Faraday Wing) and I was delighted to be asked to return as Visiting Professor to the School of Urban Engineering. I came here first in 1962 and did a three-year “thick sandwich” course – a Higher National Diploma with two industry placements. Like most people on the course I had a relative, my father, who introduced me to the industry. Even today, without a role model most people don’t consider going into building services because they don’t see what it has to offer. That’s one of the reasons I’m so keen to help young people get started in this industry, which offers such excellent opportunities. I currently chair LSBU’s Building Services Industry Advisory Board (BSEIAB), ensuring that courses and activities are informed by best practice.

Career highlights

"My first job was with J. Jeffreys (now Balfour Beatty Engineering Services), where I became a senior design engineer. I had the chance to design some incredible buildings and it was work I felt very proud of. When the time came to move on, I took a sabbatical and fulfilled a long-held dream to drive a Land Rover from the UK via India to Cape Town with my wife. My boss at Jeffreys assured me there would be a job for me on my return, but I decided to take up my father’s offer to join the family business as Contracts Director. Within a decade my father had died and I became Managing Director of A. G. Manly & Co.

"For me, the highlights of my career have been about people rather than buildings. One of the most enjoyable things about taking over the family firm was the opportunity to become personally involved with the apprentices. We had a great reputation for the all-round training we provided. When I retired three years ago I hired a pub and put out a post on social media inviting anyone who worked for the company to come for a drink. On the night 120 people turned up, many of them former apprentices, some of whom had gone on to do amazing things. It never mattered to me that people would take the training and then move on. I was glad to have helped them get on to the first rung of the ladder.

Role models

"I’ve had two very powerful role models in my career. They were my first boss, who had a real generosity of spirit, and my father, from whom I learned my values and way of doing business. Although he ran a very successful firm, my father took pains to treat people properly and was recognised in the industry for his ethics. I’ve always tried to follow his example. I employed around 300 people at Manly and knew them and many of their families personally. It’s lovely to be invited to weddings and celebrations and to keep the business on a human scale, which you can’t do in a large corporation. Of course there are downsides as well. I saw the business through three recessions and there were sleepless nights and a lot of soul searching when I had to make people redundant. It’s something a good employer always hates to do.

Mentoring young students

"I‘ve worked as STEM Ambassador for 15 years and as a student mentor for 10 years. One of the projects I’ve been involved with is setting up a mobile classroom that tours secondary schools and special needs schools in Surrey teaching BTEC Level 1 construction, so that children who may not be strong academically can receive training and a recognised qualification. I’ve also mentored young students in STEM subjects. In fact, last year I attended the degree ceremony here as one of my young mentees was graduating. I first met him when he was a plumbing apprentice and he’s now gone on to study for an MSc. I also set up the Manly Trust in honour of my father to support young people training for a career in science or engineering. It funds, among other things, three bursaries each year for BSE students at LSBU.

The opportunities LSBU can offer you

"There are amazing opportunities for students graduating now. If you graduate from LSBU you are already at an advantage (50% of recent presidents of CIBSE have been educated here). A UK engineering qualification is recognised worldwide. And the industry is endlessly versatile. You don’t just train to be a design engineer. Look at the new buildings popping up all over the London skyline: they are increasingly complex structures and each of them needs to be maintained by a highly skilled engineer. The industry has never been more dynamic, and the new focus on sustainable development means the built environment becomes ever more innovative and the opportunities for new roles increase. It’s your world out there!"

Update: Graham sadly passed away on 10th May 2019.