This year is giving Dublin-based OCSC double cause for celebration as it not only marks the 30th anniversary of the structural civils company but also the 10th anniversary of its M&E company. Construction Industry News once again caught up with Francis McNulty, Managing Director of the M&E company, to see how both landmarks are being observed.
“We are holding a number of events throughout the year but one of the main ones will be the publication of a book identifying key aspects of the life of the company including a particularly notable project from each year of our 30-year history,” explains Mr McNulty. “To be honest we have enough history and projects to fill at least two books so there’s been plenty of debate about which ones to include!
“To make the selection process easier, we’ve focused on certain criteria, such as the architectural significance of the projects and their national importance. For example, we are currently involved in the Children’s Hospital of Ireland on the structural side, while we have just finished the Central Bank of Ireland on the M&E side. These are projects of the calibre we wanted for inclusion, as we’ve worked so extensively on them and most people within Ireland will recognise them. We’re aiming to have the book ready by June.”
Having come through its fair share of recessions and market downturns over the past 30 years, with so many companies having not been so fortunate, what’s been key to the longevity that OCSC has been able to demonstrate and the fact it is still going strong after all these years?
“The most important element has been the people within the business, from the top down,” outlines Mr McNulty. “One of the things that has always helped set us apart from our competitors is the can do attitude of everyone within OCSC, led by example by the hands on input of all the directors, all of whom are shareholders in the business.”
In addition to the strong leadership shown at director level, OCSC has also always recognised the importance of supplementing this experience and know-how with a need to continually bring through young talent to ensure there’s a constant platform on which to keep building the business. “It’s imperative that we have a strong spread of skills at every level of the organisation to allow us to keep moving forward,” adds Mr McNulty. “As a consequence we have an extremely well established in-house graduate training programme that is fully accredited by Engineers Ireland. This is at the heart of all the training our graduates undertake.
“We also accept graduates on internships, having developed strong relationships with various colleges including the Dublin Institute of Technology. We usually have two or three interns within the practice at any one time. Once they’ve completed their internships and achieved their qualifications they’ll often look to secure a position with us, as they already know who we are and what we’re about as a company. This is highly advantageous at a time when resources are becomingly increasingly limited within the marketplace, so the more graduates that choose us over other businesses the better. The fact that we have a strong reputation for developing young talent and helping them to progress their careers also counts hugely in our favour.
“In the immediate future the lack of resources in the construction industry is going to be a major issue and will continue to be for the next couple of years. This is always the case following any recession, as graduates lose confidence in particular sectors such as construction and veer away from courses within the industry. As a result, there’s always something of a time lag before they return to these courses and we are going through this stage at the moment. Eventually the numbers will return once faith in the long term prospects of construction is restored, but in the meantime it does present some challenges that we’re working hard to overcome by developing our own people as much as we can.”
As well as its emphasis on training and staff development, another significant feather in OCSC’s cap when it comes to recruitment is the fact that it was recently named the 14th Best Medium Workplace in Ireland at the annual Great Place to Work Awards. “Three years ago we decided to set out on the road of making the various improvements necessary to meet the standards set out within the awards. To have successfully reached this goal, in the process being named in the Top 20 medium-sized companies, has been a significant achievement for us. It also provides us with an important benchmark that we can utilise moving forward to ensure that we’re continually making further improvements to our way of working. This underlines the fact that we’re a considerate employer that not only listens to our staff but takes on-board what they have to say and actively takes steps to address any issues.
“We’re certainly not just an engineering company that is pushing its employees as hard as it can in order to be as productive as possible; instead we want to create a working environment where our staff are able to thrive and develop their careers to their full potential. Award recognition of this nature shows that we’re going in the right direction. We’re now keen to build on the success by making further improvements.”
Having strived so hard to develop an award-winning working environment to get the most out of its highly trained workforce, it is clear that the strength of OCSC’s infrastructure has played an integral role in its success over the past 30 years. What’s more, it will also enable the business to make the most of the opportunities currently available within the marketplace.
“When we last spoke around 12 months ago I remember mentioning that there was a great deal of nervousness surrounding the commercial office market,” says Mr McNulty. “Thankfully this uneasiness proved to be unfounded, as we’ve since been involved in a significant number of commercial projects with more potentially in the pipeline. That said, the nervousness hasn’t completely dissipated and there are concerns that the market is set for something of a downturn, although there are hopes that the Brexit factor will encourage foreign companies to swap London for Dublin.
“From our perspective we’re still experiencing a lot of buoyancy within the commercial market, while we’re also seeing ongoing robustness in both the hotel and leisure sectors as tourist numbers keep rising, a trend that is predicted to continue for the foreseeable future. We’re therefore seeing a growing number of opportunities within the hotel market, although prices aren’t fully marrying up yet. Hopefully with the continuing demand that the market is seeing this will rectify itself soon.”
In terms of specific projects that OCSC is currently involved in, it is actively working on the Cherrywood scheme, a mixed-use development in South Dublin that comprises offices, residential and retail elements over 388 acres. On the hotel side, meanwhile, it is working on a project on Dean Street in the centre of Dublin for John O’Sullivan, owner of the Hodson Bay hotel group, while it is also involved in a couple of hotels for Hilton.
Having recently completed a project on the Luas light rail line, OCSC is also hopeful of securing further work associated with the development of Dublin’s Metro following the Irish Government’s recent announcement of a 10-year capital investment plan worth €3bn. This is in addition to the opportunities that are being seen in Dublin’s university sector as investment continues to be made in this area too.
Lastly, but by no means least, on the residential side OCSC is heavily involved in the Clancy Quay development in conjunction with Kennedy Wilson. This is seeing the creation of a number of brand new apartments, townhouses and courtyard houses on the banks of the River Liffey.
Regarding OCSC’s M&E operation, meanwhile, the company is again very active in Dublin but has also been working extensively in London too, despite the concerns surrounding Brexit. “The uncertain situation doesn’t seem to have impacted too much on the market yet,” adds Mr McNulty. “We are also looking at other parts of the UK market, particularly further north in the likes of Birmingham and Manchester. In fact, we are looking at opening an office in Birmingham in the near future to capitalise further on the opportunities that we’re seeing. We view HS2 in particular as holding great potential for us so we’ve specifically focused on developing a strategy around this scheme.
“Away from projects, internally we’re also concentrating on further improving our approach to sustainability within the organisation. We’ve already made strong inroads in this area but we’re keen to continue building on this progress by further improving the energy efficiency of our overall building process. This is an objective we’re firmly committed to and we’re further strengthening our team to support this. We have also developed an environmental side within the structural operation and this is continuing to grow nicely. It’s all about offering our clients a complete one-stop service package that meets their every requirement for fully coordinated multidisciplinary engineering design and project management.”
With a forward thinking client-focused approach it is not hard to see how OCSC has been able to reach two such notable anniversaries this year. What’s more, its ethos is sure to see the company celebrating many significant milestones in the years ahead too.