Odran shares highlights of his career at the premier family-owned Coffey Group.
He reflects on his trajectory with the firm, favourite projects and most interesting challenges. The episode also looks ahead at the sustainability landscape, including a growing pressure to broaden the options available in terms of construction processes, materials and deployment.
You’ll hear about some fascinating new technologies (like those behind Coffey’s mobile emergency waste treatment plant design) and why it’s so critical that students in Ireland receive plenty of exposure to the many upsides of a career in engineering.
Odran also shares thoughts about the benefits of Continuing Professional Development programmes and the critical role EI plays in upholding a consistent gold standard across the engineering industry.
Topics we discussed include:
- The M7 Motorway Project’s specific challenges and the creative solutions Coffey engineers found to make it all work.
- How Coffey culture emphasizes CPS and why it promotes growth and advancement through ongoing professional training and accreditation.
- Lough Talt Water Treatment Plant
- How and why Coffey engineers designed a mobile emergency water treatment plant housed within a single 40-foot container
- The advantage of plug-and-play installations as a time- and labour-saver and China’s lightning-quick ability to design and build fully equipped hospitals using this modular construction.
- How “pilot” customers are deterred by perceived risk. Can you counter that anxiety with reassuring examples of successful work?
- About Coffey’s most pressing challenges from labour to finite opportunity.
- Odran’s predictions on the civil engineering sector, investment in housing, transport and energy and infrastructure improvements needed to support population growth and social demands.
Odran Madden is a Chartered Engineer with over 20 years experience in the construction industry and over 15 years experience at management level undertaking civil engineering and building construction projects of varying scales, values and complexities.
Odran has gained extensive knowledge and experience in water, wastewater, road, rail, energy and specialist engineering projects. His role is to ensure that all projects are completed safely, to a high standard, to our client’s satisfaction and that the project teams are provided with the necessary technical support and resources.
Odran holds BEng and LLB degrees, is a Chartered Engineer, Fellow of the Institute of Engineers of Ireland and an Associate of the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators.
“I quite enjoy working with water. It's very technically challenging, when you can take wastewater treatment to a safe and clean standard and give that water out to customers to drink, it’s very rewarding.”
“I've certainly come across resistance in Ireland to things like pre-cast concrete over in-situ concrete. Some people do have resistance but it's changing and becoming more and more the norm.”
“We don't really like change … (but) we need to allow the new innovative ways to advance.”
“If you're meeting strangers, they're less likely to accept something that's going to be a little bit different. So you do need to have strong relationships with people. That's why I think having that repeat business is so important to help you get stuff over the line.”
Looking for ways to explore or advance a career in the field of engineering? Visit Engineers Ireland to learn more about the many programs and resources on offer.
For your convenience, here is a 90% accurate automated transcript of the podcast.
Dusty Rhodes 0:02
Right now on amplified the engineers journal podcast, we're about to meet the managing director of coffee group adran. Madden are kind
Odran Madden 0:09
of a person as an engineer, I would say typically they're well rounded individual who is attracted to technical issues and likes to solve problems.
Dusty Rhodes 0:40
Hello there, my name is Dusty Rhodes and welcome to the engineers Ireland podcast where we're chatting with our community of creative professionals across the country, about how engineers are delivering sustainable solutions for society both now and in the future. Today, we're finding out more about coffee, the family owned firm who over five decades have operated in every major construction sector throughout the UK and Ireland, which is their success is down to the quality efficiency and a belief in their directly employed workforce. At the helm is a man who has been through the twists and turns of successes of the firm working in water, wastewater, road rail energy and specialist engineering projects. He has seen it all it's a pleasure to welcome managing director Odran Madden, how're you doing?
Odran Madden 1:25
I just see how are you? Thanks for having me on.
Dusty Rhodes 1:27
So water, wastewater, road rail, energy specialists, engineer, that is a long list of stuff you have done. Have you have you got a favorite project in there?
Odran Madden 1:37
Yeah, look, it's quite quite a diverse range of projects. And I think coffee I suppose I've been very lucky that I've been able to touch across a lot of these projects. I started doing a lot of road projects when I started first as a graduate engineer, and progressed on to water. And I've done some very interesting projects as well across many sectors. We built a large motorway and in Limerick motorway so that when in a joint venture that was that was very interesting, very, very challenging as well. We did some very large reservoir projects, water towers. And we also did domestic water metering project for Irish water, which proved to be quite politically charged and challenging for us as a contractor to try and deliver on the ground. So yeah, we've we've had some we've had some very interesting projects over the years,
Dusty Rhodes 2:20
it must be an absolute nightmare working with water, is it? No,
Odran Madden 2:24
I quite enjoy it. I think it's it's very technically challenging, but very rewarding as well, when you know that you can, you can take some water wastewater treaters to a safe and clean standard and give that water out to customers to drink. It's very rewarding
Dusty Rhodes 2:40
in that, in that sense, one of the biggest difficulties of working with water, while working
Odran Madden 2:44
with water, when you take a role water source, you don't really know what's what's in it to start so. So you're designing for a standard of water to start and to treat that and, and that body of water can change and develop over a period of time. So you have to be quite dynamic in your approach and how you can how you can treat on an ongoing basis. And it can be very seasonal as well, different times of the year will bring different challenges when it comes to water water treatment. So yeah, it's it's quite challenging in terms of how you deal with that. Have you ever
Dusty Rhodes 3:14
had a situation where you're going, okay, based on my experience, the water should do this. And then the water goes off and does something else.
Odran Madden 3:21
It can just be programmed at the moment in terms of water leakage. And we've been doing quite a lot of work on whatever is water on that and you can repair, repair a section of pipe and think that's great. And then or we just find the next path to put some pressure on and, and cause problems somewhere else down the network. You can also treat water in a treatment plant, and water can be perfectly leaving the treatment plant when and when it gets down the network. It can cause additional challenges depending on the length of the network and the length of time it's been in the pipe. So
Dusty Rhodes 3:49
can you give me an example of one of those challenges?
Odran Madden 3:52
Yeah, actually, we had been working on on a project in in LA called fresh water, which was on a boil water notice for a long time and we put in an innovative process to treat the water there. But you know, there were challenges down the network after the treatment because of the length of the network pipe that's that's there around feeding, feeding 12,000 people around around Congress Lagos. So we had to revise some of the some of the treatment procedures there to try and enhance the water quality further on the network.
Dusty Rhodes 4:20
Tell me about the motorway project that you mentioned in Limerick that's a huge job is that one of the biggest you've tackled?
Odran Madden 4:27
It is is a single standard on contract. Yes, it is. We were in a joint venture there with two other partners that even even the relationships within the joint venture was more challenging as you can imagine. One of those was a European contractor as well. So we have had language barriers and cultural barriers as well as everything else. But yeah, it was a challenging project in terms of the terrain we were crossing there was a lot of deep bugs. Definitely a tough project to be on but it was it's really really rewarding when you you know get through a project like that and you open that road open you can see the commuters and people But traveling along that road and it being a safer environment for them to travel on,
Dusty Rhodes 5:04
how do you build a motorway across a bog?
Odran Madden 5:08
In that regard, we piled it actually, we put in lots of two 3000 concrete piles, we drove them down through the through the bog until they hit solid ground. We also did some quite another innovative technique on some of the smaller access roads and local access roads for farmers and landowners. Where we used tire bales, so basically tires, and we wrapped them in bales, and we put some geotextile around them and build stone over top. And so essentially, it's a floating road.
Dusty Rhodes 5:35
What was the reaction when he came up with that idea? First, let's get some tires. Yeah.
Odran Madden 5:39
Yeah, it's it's actually mean it has been used before. And it goes back to even even way back, you'd see that the online commission in the forestry, you know, using all three logs to line across the bugs. So you just, you know, put stone over them. And so the concept of a floating road has been around for forever, in Ireland when we're very used to bugs and having to travel across them. So that concept has been around for a while. Because they're floating, they typically move a little so you know, it's challenging for for a motorway standard road, but for a local access road. It's it's, it's a great solution.
Dusty Rhodes 6:13
Would you say the bug was the biggest challenge on that motorway?
Odran Madden 6:16
Yeah, it definitely was on that one. Yeah, absolutely.
Dusty Rhodes 6:18
Why did you get involved in this business of engineering in the first place?
Odran Madden 6:24
I guess I was always into construction. I always liked the concept of construction. I didn't I didn't come from a family background of engineers. My father was actually a hotelier. So in two hotels. My mother came from North mayo and a lot of our her brothers and she she had a lot of brothers, they all headed off into, into construction industries across them over to the UK. So they were kind of in that and, and I guess maybe that's where it came from. But I always, I always liked the idea of construction, seeing things being built, how they were built. And I guess I wanted to just get into that was kind of always where I was headed. I never had any doubt I never had any problem filling out my SEO form or anything like that. So yeah, it was quite quite easy for me,
Dusty Rhodes 7:05
did you ever have something as a kid where you kind of looked at it and went, I wish I did that?
Odran Madden 7:08
Things like the Lego on the mechanical and all these kinds of things I was, I was absolutely into, you know, again, during school, maths was always a forte, you know. So I was just that way inclined to think you know,
Dusty Rhodes 7:20
so you're in the engineering business. All right, and you're doing very, very well at it. And now you find yourself in management, how do you go from your kind of the fun side of the business, if you want to put it that way into management? What happened? Yeah, it's
Odran Madden 7:32
a kind of a gradual process to be honest, us too, because a coffee I was I was very lucky, when you come in at a very young age, you do get to manage aspects of work quite early on in your career, even as even as a graduate engineer. So you do get to kind of manage, you know, gangs of resources, managing materials, managing aspects of a site. So you progress on to managing a small construction site onto a larger construction site and onto a few construction sites at the same time. And it just, it just continues in that way. So it's quite organic, you know, you have that responsibility early on, within engineering that you can, you can do that, certainly from a construction point of view, which is, which is where I grew up if you like, was was on sites. I mean, I came out of college, I was in any way G and civil engineering student, I did a placement with coffee on a road. And then I come back as a graduate on to another project. And I've stayed the coffee, obviously, ever since throughout my career. So I know the business very well, obviously. But I know the path of progression, right from straight through from from being a student engineer, right up to being a managing director.
Dusty Rhodes 8:37
So being an engineer and involved in Project you do have to manage people, that's that's just part of the gig. And it's kind of led you to where you are today. What about CPD? developing your skills along the way?
Odran Madden 8:48
Yeah, that's an absolutely massive aspect of it, I think, and hugely important in any industry, particularly engineering construction, it has evolved so much over the years, and how we do things now is actually very different than how we did it in the past, the technology has advanced so much. It I mean, when I started off, you know, we didn't have computers, you know, no mobile phones were even, or even brand new. So we used to we used to handwrite everything that time and or we draw sketches out for the people on the ground and that kind of stuff. So, so it has evolved hugely to a point now where we're, we're using BIM models, and we're going out showing our people with you know, iPads on the underground and showing showing our for what they have to build on screens now. So it's, it's completely changed, you know, particularly when it comes to water water treatment, which is a lot of our business that has evolved as technologies evolve hugely there in that regard. And you know, you think of a business like ours typical construction business, I mean, we we have a lot of process engineers, mechanical, electrical, we have environmental scientists all involved in the process. It becomes quite diverse quite quickly and and CPD is is central to that because you have to understand everything you do as a business, I think and people have to get better and better and at understanding what they're doing in education is really important. And again, I coffee, we promote a lot of that even in terms of master's programs or further diplomas or, you know, as well as things, you know, generally CPD webinars and the like with the likes of engineers, Ireland and others.
Dusty Rhodes 10:19
Let's talk about sustainability in engineering. How important do you think with the changing world and environment that we're going through how important is sustainability these days,
Odran Madden 10:29
it's huge, because in construction, we produce a lot of concrete and stone and, and we're digging these things out of the ground. So so we're having a huge impact on the environment, during the projects we're doing so, so to try and positively impact on that for more sustainable methods is, is very significant. And it's really important that we do that. And again, for us, the whole water cycle is really important, and how we can reuse and recycle that water. And we do that so we can take a wastewater stream and ultimately put it back into into a drinking water standards that kind of reuse and recycle and trying to do that more and more also, without chemical addition, is quite significant. And General, other civil engineering products, I mean, the likes of concrete has evolved, you know, that we're using more sustainable concrete, and things like that on road projects, it's all it's all much more sustainable Now than, than it used to be making sure that we're catching any of the pollutants that maybe runoff from roads, and we're not allowing those to go back into the environment and into the, into the land, that kind of thing is growing. And I think we're improving as a, as an industry at that quite a lot over the last, you know, more or less 20 years, certainly.
Dusty Rhodes 11:36
And where is this being driven by is being driven by customer demand? Or is being driven by, you know, the thoughts and solutions that engineers are coming up with?
Odran Madden 11:45
Yeah, I think it's, it's probably a mix, businesses are always trying to do more and more sustainable things, particularly in more recent years. And I suppose for business's point of view, that's, that's probably a selling point. And also, so people are trying to corner a bit of America for themselves and come up with some some good solutions, which, which customers will want. And I think it's also coming from regulation, as well as a lot of that from from you're requiring certain standards that industry must comply with, tell me about air cough tech. Yeah, so cough Tech is a very interesting business. For us. It's something we launched during COVID. Actually, we had thoughts and ideas pretty COVID. But it's something we've just launched during COVID. And what what it is, is, it's where we design, manufacture and sell wastewater treatment related technologies. So we're doing so particularly in the modular treatment space. So we're we're basically designing and building here in our offices in Sri in Galway, we can ship them off to wherever customers need them. And we have some various customers in Ireland in the UK for those. And we also true Irish water, or one of our our clients, and they have donated to with the department to water treatment plants out to Ukraine to to help with the treatment of water out there. It's a quite interesting market is quite technical, trying to design a water treatment plant in a in a 40 foot container is essentially all it is. So it's it's yeah, there's this there's definitely an interest out there in the market. It's something that we can, we can build on and we're offering quite a lot a lot a number of solutions and water quality monitoring equipment, again, is is another aspect of of the caf tech business, where we can essentially install systems that allow industry and you know, local authorities and Irish water to understand the quality of the water they have, and then be able to design more defined treatment plants to treat floodwater to get them to the right level they're at. That's something that's becoming quite common now, particularly in industry,
Dusty Rhodes 13:41
you say that you are building water treatment into essentially a 40 foot container is this designed to be like a permanent installation or a temporary one.
Odran Madden 13:51
So they can be essentially the plants that we've we've sent out to Ukraine or are designed as an emergency water treatment, we modified the specifications slightly to suit to Ukraine, but they can be either. So in industry, we've put them in as, as permanent, you know, situations where they're just like to, it's a simple quick add on to the back end of a production facility with three units to defense forces as well. So their idea is that they're mobilized those out to Lebanon, or whoever they're mobilizing their resources to so so they can be used in both.
Dusty Rhodes 14:24
It sounds absolutely fascinating that you've seen this problem in the world and you kind of went okay, we need to design a water treatment plant. And somebody came up with the idea of like, well, let's fit it into this space. Walk me through that project. I mean, when somebody has the first idea, what's the first thing that you do then to start developing it?
Odran Madden 14:42
So once we have a an idea or a requirement to do something, we just get our project teams together and and we get a bit of brainstorming going and start teasing old ideas. And it's important when we're doing these things that we have people from different different aspects of our business from the construct Inside the design side, the operation and maintenance side because we also operate almost 50 treatment plants around the country so, so we have that experience as well. So it's pulling all the right people into a room together. And having a brainstorming session, essentially, to try and come up with a design, which will work to suit to suit the requirements of customers. The first design is never the final design, when it comes to these things, when you're, when you're manufacturing something, it will evolve, you will have continuous improvement, which is again, continuous improvement is something we're all about here a coffee as well. So it's important that we keep improving everything that we're doing, when it comes to these designs.
Dusty Rhodes 15:35
So do you do a lot of computer modelling?
Odran Madden 15:37
Yeah, BIM is a huge aspect of our business now as it will be for most most of businesses in engineering now. So yeah, we have full BIM capability. And we will, you know, when it comes to the likes of the modular treatment plants, they'll be all designed on BIM, particularly when you're talking about clash detection and things like that. So you can know that everything will fit where it should fit, you can get access to everything down in terms of maintenance and operations as well.
Dusty Rhodes 16:02
And then when you're constructing and putting together your first physical model, surely you're coming up with parts and pieces and ideas that just aren't available in the market that you can just buy off the shelf, how do you construct it and put the whole thing together?
Odran Madden 16:14
Yeah. So typically, when it comes to water treatment, you will have your overall process, you'll have a process design, which is the pressure filtration followed by UV disinfection. So so they'll be the key components, and then you're, you're just figuring out what how you move the water through the system, how you control and automate and manage that. So once you have two key components, everything else is available. I mean, all the things we use are available on the market, we don't typically design things that that's not available on the market yet, you know, so these are all typically tried and trusted technologies we're using, and it's just the configuration and and how you get the efficient use of space within that small space. Did you have an affordable container?
Dusty Rhodes 16:55
And what drove that initial idea of trying to get it into a 40 foot container? Was that something that was happening in the world? Or was it just a random idea?
Odran Madden 17:03
Yeah, no, it's look, it's something that's out there. So we're trying to do more more of that plus, the added benefit here is we can build it in a factory environment as opposed to on a site. So when you're building it in a in a factory environment, your quality is better your health and safety standards are better, you've got a better opportunity to refine and enhance your design. And it means less traveling around for you know, construction workers typically travel around so means less time traveling the countryside for, for a lot of our people, which is obviously much, much, much better for them, and a lot of them going to try and do is make sure that we can, we can get our people home every day, you know, as always, doesn't always work, of course and construction, but that's something we like to we like to try and do anyway. So there's just a huge amount of added benefits. Plus, you know, if you're working in a in a site or in a in an industrial situation, you're in and out quickly, you know, it's plug and play type approach, you're in and out quickly. The impact and you know, that you have the disruption that you have on businesses is smaller on on customers are small. So so that's that's important as well, I think that adds value.
Dusty Rhodes 18:05
Getting away from the coffee business, we've come back. I'm just gonna thinking about out in the world things other people have done or big construction or engineering projects that have impressed you in the last two to three years.
Odran Madden 18:21
I think in the last two or three years, I think some of the things that have been been really impressive we saw in in China at the outset of COVID, how they managed to build hospitals in a matter of weeks, which is, which is incredible when you when you think you know how long it might take us to do that here. You'd wonder how long had they been planning it in advance, but it's very, very impressive to build hospitals fully kitted out for patients very, very quickly, in quick charts way to sign so that's that's something that is certainly registered with me. And I think it feeds back into that whole modular construction as well, that offsite fabrication and construction, because that is the way we will build quicker as a society. It'll speed up the construction time. But certainly onsite time will will speed knowing, you know, I think that's that's that's going to be some of the future for us.
Dusty Rhodes 19:09
I can understand where where you are on site and you're building it and you're actually putting it together and the building is taking shape. What if you're literally putting it together 50 miles away, and then you have to transport it. That's that's what I'm trying to figure out. What are the advantages?
Odran Madden 19:22
Yeah, so typically, every component you're going to build on a construction service to be transported there anyway. So depending on where your production facility is, you know, there's probably no net gain or loss in transport. So the benefits come to the quality of the product in that it's built in a much more controlled environment rather than out on a construction site possibly opened in inclement weather or poor lighting or all the other issues that might might cause quality issues. Health and safety will be a massive benefit as well. And that you're having people working in a better controlled environment so that they're not walking across rough sites or sites. Are you gonna go up and down scaffolding to the same extent or excavations or just working in a more suitable location to carry out somebody's, somebody's works. And then I think you also have the benefit of the install timeframe. So the amount of time you're on site will reduce drastically as well. And that's a great benefit to the people who are there that you don't have to have people driving the countryside to go to the construction sites. And similarly to the customers, you know, that you're not disrupting or impacting on people in the way that you might if you're building everything, everything on a site, the efficiency, the safety, the quality, all those things, then obviously, can lead to, to commercial benefits as well.
Dusty Rhodes 20:41
Do you think that there is an acceptance of this in Ireland or resistance?
Odran Madden 20:45
I think we're getting there. I you know, I've certainly come across resistance in Ireland, and indeed, in the UK as well, when it comes to things like precast concrete over in situ concrete, some people do have a resistance to that it's certainly changing, and it's becoming more, more and more the norm, but there are still certain claims certain people who still are like the old way, I think there's an awful lot of that in construction that will, let's just stay with the trend. And trust it, because because it works. And we don't really like change, there's certainly an element that I think is sad, we need to we need to move another little bit with that and allow the new innovative ways to advance.
Dusty Rhodes 21:19
And how do you get this across to people? How do you convince them?
Odran Madden 21:22
I suppose the first thing people always look for all our references, you know, so the first time is always the challenge. So So you have to build pilot projects, you have to do pilots and basically tried to convince them to say, well, this is what we've prepared. And this is how it works. And, and yeah, there'll be an element of some people taking a chance on the first one. But the more we go with this, the more people will believe in, in the whole, the off site, or the modular or the, you know, doing things a little bit differently. And, yeah, I think it's, it's growing as a concept within the industry.
Dusty Rhodes 21:50
Have you had a situation where you are there as an engineer, and you've come up with a brilliant solution to a problem. But you're trying to explain to the client that this is new, and they are going to be the pilot? And they're kind of going well give me a reference and you go well, I can't because you're the pilot? How does it? Have you had an experience like that?
Odran Madden 22:11
Yeah, we have quite a few, there's this on a lot of projects, we'll have that we'll try and introduce and it might be just some, some new product. But yes, clients will say, Well, this is what I specified. So this is kind of what I want. And it's understandable as well, you know, they're, they might want to take the risk, they just want the project to work. So so you can see why there is a bit of reticence in, in accepting all of these new technologies. And, you know, I completely don't all work either. So it's, it's, it is understandable. So I think clients probably need to just be a little bit more open to reviewing it in a little bit more detail. You know, sometimes it's very quick, no, whereas, you know, it possibly should be a little bit. Okay, let's, let's, let's have a proper look at this and see what a work, you know,
Dusty Rhodes 22:55
and there's a lot of a down to personal relationships and the length of the relationship and building up trust,
Odran Madden 23:00
there's always an element of that, for sure, you know, and if you have a trusting relationship with somebody, which is huge in any business, but for us having having that relationship and a proper collaborative type relationship is really, really important. You know, because if you're meeting meeting strangers, they're less likely to accept something that's, that's going to be a little bit different. So you do need to have strong relationships with people and and that's why I think, you know, having that repeat businesses is important to help you get stuff over the line.
Dusty Rhodes 23:27
Coffee is a very innovative company, and you're involved in a lot of very exciting things at the moment, where do you see civil engineering going in the future?
Odran Madden 23:37
I think civil civil engineering will be will be huge, I mean, it and it has to be a minutes across all of the sectors we we need to continue to invest in, you know, we talk about about housing and transport and energy and civil engineering is the backbone of a lot of all of those things in all the infrastructure that's needed. So so as we have a growing and changing population in society, civil engineering projects will be absolutely required, we will need to continue to develop our infrastructure to keep up with that population growth and societal demands.
Dusty Rhodes 24:10
And what kind of projects then are coffee working on at the moment in order to do that,
Odran Madden 24:14
we do a lot in the water, water space, so water wastewater treatment, water obstructions, as reservoirs, pipelines. And we're doing some obviously transport projects and the like, and some of those projects are typically you know, client driven and that they decide what they want and we can build them where we are looking at things ourselves is from an energy point of view are things like how we use hydrogen in society and how we can we can help in terms of some of the aspects of that so there's certainly something something there and around the whole climate side and and renewable energy even you know, we're looking at the sites we operate and seeing how we can make doors more energy efficient and and how we can use renewable energy to help with those operations sites because energy energy is the biggest element of of a site when you're operating For a treatment
Dusty Rhodes 25:02
that's significant. And where do you see hydrogen being used?
Odran Madden 25:05
As you think hydrogen is a huge opportunity for for Ireland, we have a huge opportunity to produce and potentially export, we're not a big industrial country. So from a demand point of view, we don't have a huge demand there, we do obviously, in transport so, so buses and trucks and the lake is the obvious one, but it's a few of which can be can be stored. So we talk about, you know, what happens when the, when the wind turbines when the wind isn't blowing, so I think hydrogen can can help there. But I also think it's an export opportunity, you know, into places like Germany, and that where they don't have the wind power that we have from the Atlantic Ocean, there's an opportunity here, and we talk about the green hydrogen, which is obviously, you know, offshore wind to produce hydrogen, and I think that's, that's where I think we can have a huge benefit there.
Dusty Rhodes 25:51
And then as a company, then what's the biggest challenge that you're facing at the moment,
Odran Madden 25:55
the biggest challenge at the moment, to be honest, is resource, so trying to get the people to do all the work that our customers want. So as an industry, you know, construction, and the recession is very fresh in everybody's mind still. And so if a lot of parents perhaps out there, maybe saying don't go into construction, you know, you might not have a job and a few years, but I think it's it can be a really, really sustainable industry. And I think we do struggle to try and get engineers and trades, you know, apprentices we we try to take on a lot of apprentices do a lot of work going out to schools, you know, participate in Engineers Week with engineers, Ireland and things like that, trying to trying to sell the engineering brand, if you like and trying to encourage young people into construction and engineering. And it's tough because we're competing with you know, a lot of the foreign direct investment companies in in Ireland and a big pharmaceuticals and the tech companies, they probably seem much more attractive to young school kids know. So it's important that we can try and sell Construction and Engineering as as sustainable industries, older people can have a good career out of it. I absolutely believe they can. So yeah, that's our that's probably our biggest challenge right now. We could, you know, we could do more if we had more.
Dusty Rhodes 27:02
And once you have people involved in the company, do you find it easy to retain staff?
Odran Madden 27:08
No, we don't, I think it's, again, due to the location and you know, we've got construction sites all over the place, people don't generally want to travel as much anymore. I know when, when I came out of college, I was over, you know, delighted to move on to a different town every every so often. It was part of the experience. I don't think it kind of happens as much anymore. So yeah, so So from that point of view, it can be challenging at Coffee we've been trying to do a lot to retain our people and put people first and everything we're trying to do but it's it's it's attracting them in the first instances is a challenge and retaining is also challenging
Dusty Rhodes 27:42
when you say keep up because I thought it was interesting that one of the things that coffee seems to be proud of is a directly employed workforce, what is the advantage for the workforce being directly employed as as opposed to being a contractor
Odran Madden 27:56
for us to deliver projects being having that directly employed workforce means that we can control the production of the work control safety control the quality an awful lot better with our own people? We can we've we've got a lot of people who are with us 20 years plus, you know, in the business and and, you know, does it does, it does it obviously a strong loyalty there, from the company to the people and the people that accompany which is fantastic. And we like to try and use that to bring more kind of younger people through and get the training and experience from those, those more senior people in the business. And so, so we like to have that self deliver resource capability. And it gives us as a business then a greater understanding of, of what's actually involved in the work sometimes with subcontractors, you know, we can leave them to do their work, and not fully understand it. So, so we like to, you know, work with our people to try and help improve everything we're doing.
Dusty Rhodes 28:50
And when you're trying to get people involved in the engineering business, what's what's your pitch, when you're out to talking to the parents of kids who are kind of wondering what am I going to do with my life?
Odran Madden 28:59
Yeah, it just taught me a couple of different aspects of it, I suppose the you know, if you're looking at people going trying to convince people to go into the trades, I mean, the trades are whisked away trades like the blood playing in the plastering, and I think they're, they're tough to try and convince people going into legs those ones but but carpentry was always good on both mechanical and electrical, our are really really good trades to go into people can build really, really good careers. And not just necessarily in construction, but when you go into any manufacturing environment as mechanical electrical trades in there as well. So there's, there's a huge opportunity, I think, for anybody going into those kinds of trades and and and it can become quite specialist. You know, we're involved in a couple ourselves in developing some of the training courses even on you know, pipelining and things like that, but it can get quite technical. When you get down into the detail of what you need to do. You're teaching people some some really, really good skills that can be transferred to different industries and and can help people travel around the world as well if they if they so choose, you know, so give them that option. Their skills that there will always be be worked for So from from from a trades point of view, I think it's, it's a fantastic, you know, set of skills to learn and an ability for people to go down that road. From an engineering point of view, then people who are engineers are problem solvers. And I've seen lots of engineers and people who are on my own class in college, have come out of engineering, and they're, you know, high up in other businesses in other sectors, because you've got that problem solving ability and being able to manage people and being you know, because you get to experience managing people from from a young age. So, yeah, so there's a huge market there. I know, engineering is very diverse, in terms of what you can, what you can get into, there's lots of opportunities.
Dusty Rhodes 30:35
Let me wrap up by asking about engineers, Ireland, what would you say is one of the most useful things that you have gotten personally from being a member of engineers, Ireland?
Odran Madden 30:45
I think the CPD has been great. I think also the not the kind of networking opportunities you have within within engineers, Ireland is very good as well, you know, and they have two professional titles, I think that's really important. That gives you the, the recognition internationally, you know, being a chartered engineers is a fantastic title. And that is something that is recognized internationally. So again, you know, for people who who do decide to travel, and often people do, having that Chartered Engineer status is and title is, is really, really important. So, I think there are two big things that engineers can do to do really, really well.
Dusty Rhodes 31:22
Can you give me a specific example of something that engineers Ireland did for you the push your career forward?
Odran Madden 31:27
I think it's that we did get a lot of encouragement to go and do that. chartership and I think that's quite positive. And I think I know what helped me, you know, hear my own career even within coffee. At that time, I think, you know, people used to clients used to look for chartered engineers to, you know, to lead their projects. And so being able to have that on my CV was important for coffee to put forward and put names forward. So, so that is that has helped you
Dusty Rhodes 31:49
out and Madden, it's been an absolute pleasure talking to you. Thank you for taking the time out to chat with us today. Thanks so much to see. If you'd like to find out more about what we spoke about on the podcast today. You'll find Milton link details in the show notes or description area of our podcast on your player right now. And of course you find more information and advanced episodes on our website at engineers Ireland dot aid. Our podcast today was produced by does pod.io for engineers, Ireland and if you'd like more, do click the Follow button on your podcast player so you get access to all of our past and indeed all our future podcasts. Until next time, thank you so much for listening.