State of the Nation - Panel Discussion

25 Sep
Friday 25th September 2020

Click here to book your place


Once a month we will be holding a panel event with a representative from each four CE partner regions - the South West; Wales, The Midlands; and The North East.

The panel will comprise of a different representative from each region every month. The aim is to generate ‘conversations that matter’ where key Construction and Built Environment news and issues can be discussed by both panelist’s and attendees with the aim of improving the sector.


Nick Baxter, CEO Baxter Williams

Nick Baxter has a genuine passion for all things "team" and the CEO of Baxter Williams a consultancy that specialises in recruitment, employee engagement and team building. His background before industry was dominated by professional rugby. After graduating in Business Studies & Marketing he played rugby for Worcester Warriors where he represented England Students, England 7’s and the Barbarians.

Successfully transitioning from professional rugby Nick has gained considerable sector experience across the SME, Plc, Not for profit & the Public Sector landscape.

Now with a burgeoning property, construction and housebuilding division at Baxter Williams Nick has a refreshing insight into some of the key challenges organisations face in attracting and retaining the best talent.

He is incredibly proud of the Baxter Williams team which has grown quickly based on their strong culture of accountability, high performance, fun and professionalism.

Nick is keen to point out that Baxter Williams are not like most recruiters and pride themselves on doing the basics incredibly well with diligence and energy.

Most of all they like to have some fun along the way too!

Nick is married with 2 daughters and enjoys eating out, fishing, charity bike rides and watching his former team Worcester Warriors!

Jane O'Leary, 21st Century Schools Programme Manager Vale of Glamorgan Council

Jane is the 21st Century Schools Programme Manager with Vale of Glamorgan Council, having responsibility for Estates, Consultancy, Energy Management, Shaping direction, giving strategic advice and delivery of the Councils Building capital programme including delivery of the councils 21st Century Schools programme.

She has a mixed construction background having worked in both the public and private sector in a variety of areas from housing to health.

Paul Richards, Managing Director of Aquarian Cladding Systems Ltd

Paul has worked in the ‘supply link’ of the construction industry chain since 1986, having worked for the UK’s largest brick and timber distributor for over 20 years.Starting by counting bricks and timber for stock-checking, he climbed the promotional ladder with no professional qualifications to become a director based at head office. This proved to provide an invaluable education, helping him understand how to respond to people at every professional level.Good communication and people skills are the foundation of how he runs Aquarian Cladding Systems, which he founded in 2007. Ensuring he has a solid understanding of the company’s role in the marketplace, he is absolutely committed to ensuring he and his team provide excellent technical, commercial and logistical advice to their clients throughout the supply chain.Paul is a Chair of School Governors and a Board member of Clevedon Chamber of Commerce. He is also an active Board member of Constructing Excellence South West and is an advocate of modern methods of construction, with a burning desire to change the adversarial culture of the UK Construction Industry through collaborative working.Specialties: Approx 35 years of supplying cladding to the construction industry; approx 20 years experience of introducing innovative new cladding solutions to the UK construction industry; creating, running and building a company over the past 13 years that imports cladding systems from Europe; team building, business development & supply chain management. 

Mark Thompson, Managing Partner, Ryder

Mark began his career in engineering at British Shipbuilders. Following the decline of the industry, he joined Ryder Architecture in 1988, completed his studies in construction at Newcastle Polytechnic in 1990 and went on to study project management and business at Newcastle University before becoming a director of Ryder in 1995.

In recognition of his “influential and inspirational role in the industry” Mark was made an Honorary Fellow of the RIBA in 2003. As managing partner Mark has overall responsibility for the development of Ryder which employs over 250 people across the UK and overseas in Amsterdam, Hong Kong and Vancouver.
Mark is chair of blood cancer charity Bright Red, vice chair of NewcastleGateshead Initiative, board member of North East England LEP, member of the CBI North East Regional Council and the CBI National Construction Council. He also sits on the advisory board of Invest Newcastle. In 2018 Mark was awarded North East England Business Executive of the Year.

He is married to Dawn with children Hannah and Chris, enjoys socialising and watching sport with friends, particularly rugby, and is a fair weather cyclist and skier.