Changing lives through the trainee challenge

Our Foundation Challenge empowers trainees to make a real difference to peoples’ lives; Connor Lambourne talks about his experience…

Willmott Dixon's trainee scheme aims to take talented people from across the country and develops them into industry leading professionals. Key to this leading process is understanding our role helping those less fortunate then us.

When I became a trainee in 2013 as a year out student, I had no experience in any type of community investment. I leave the scheme now as the 2017 Willmott Dixon Foundation Trainee Challenge winner, something I am immensely proud of.

Connor Lambourne - Interiors cropped.jpgConnor Lambourne with Katrina Jinadu at Age UK after he led a team that refurbished its Lewisham and Southwark Healthy Centre

The trainee challenge was first introduced as an award in 2013, designed to challenge trainees from across the business to take on a social value project that would significantly enhance lives of people in their communities.


Working for Interiors, the first community challenge I worked on was led by my colleague Natalie Briden. Situated in Brixton, I was part of the team that transformed a local youth centre and their garden area with the help of members from Construction Youth.

Seeing the difference we made to that community was something I had never experienced before, and you could feel what it meant to everyone involved. Natalie won the first ever trainee challenge award and set the bar unbelievably high. That challenge, in my opinion, will always be the foundation of every winning challenge, it certainly was with mine!

Connor mid res.jpgConnor picking up his award from Rick Willmott

Leading a trainee challenge is exactly what is says on the tin…challenging, but during pre-construction is where a challenge is won. Planning is essential as once it’s underway, acquiring any goods or services is a nightmare and often expensive. Our supply chain responds incredibly to the challenges, so getting your procurement needs and agreeing sub-contractor involvement early provides an invaluable safety net and often expert guidance. Raising awareness before the event also allows all those involved to know what you’re up to and can generate a buzz around the challenge, so when staff and volunteers arrive on site they have a good idea of who they are helping, what they will be doing and why.


Only the bravest of trainee must put themselves forward for the challenge, but with high risk comes high reward. Leading a challenge helps develop you as a manager intensely across all areas. The challenge gives the opportunity to effectively plan, procure and deliver your own job from cradle to grave in the position of an operations manager. If this wasn’t difficult enough, nearly everything you do or use is donated or given in good will.

This is the most difficult yet enjoyable aspect of a challenge but you must always remember two things; the buck stops with you and you can always do more. I was lucky enough to be surrounded by some of the most capable and talented trainees in the business, who I utilised and built in a team around me. Without them, nothing would have been possible.

Leading a challenge like this is not for the faint hearted, but I would recommend it to anyone looking to gain experience like no other and deliver something truly special, win or lose. With each year the standard gets higher, with each year we achieve more, with each year we change the lives of hundreds if not thousands of people across the country. Taking part in the challenge really does embed the values of Willmott Dixon into its trainees; the difference we are able to make is incredible.

Winning the trainee challenge is one of the proudest moments of my life!

Watch Connor's trainee challenge video here