Zak wants to achieve something special in his life. He’s found his niche, combining his passion for keeping people safe with the delivery of spaces that enhance the UK’s justice estate.

Zak Smith, Planner, UK
  • Share this article

Zak always dreamed of joining the police. As a teenager he felt he lacked the life experience he needed, so he spoke to his Dad about his career in construction.

Driven by a passionate pitch that described endless opportunities, an ever-evolving industry and rewarding projects, Zak followed in his father’s footsteps, starting a construction apprenticeship and quickly progressing to become a planner.

Now at ISG, Zak works on crucial upgrade projects across the UK’s Ministry of Justice (MOJ) estate – but the desire to be part of the police never waned, and in January 2021, he became a volunteer police officer with Avon and Somerset Police. Having been on response for eight months now, Zak hasn’t looked back, and ISG’s healthy working culture allows him to combine his job with police work at evenings and weekends – roles which provide great synergy.

Zak believes ISG truly understands the MOJ’s requirements, and the need to ensure the continuity and security of critical infrastructure. It’s a logistically challenging process requiring a detailed approach to planning and delivery – a challenge that he relishes.

Zak wants to achieve something special in his life, to help people and support his local community. At 21 he’s already well on the way, showing just what can happen when you follow your dreams. 

Zak has always wanted to make a difference. Taking this drive into his career, he followed in his father’s footsteps and joined the construction industry, quickly working his way up from apprentice to planner as his focus and determination was recognised by his colleagues.  

His dream was to join the police, but feeling he lacked the life experience needed, he drew on his Dad’s passion for his career in construction, where he pitched endless opportunities, an ever-evolving industry, and varied and rewarding projects. 

“Research by the Ministry of Justice (MOJ) shows that if residents are given enhanced facilities, they will value and look after them – it’s rewarding to know we are delivering projects that make a difference and will impact current and future behaviours.” 

Zak Smith, Planner

With his Dad’s sell fresh in his mind, at 17 Zak joined an apprenticeship programme to become a planner, bringing building designs to life and turning them into reality. On completion of his programme Zak joined ISG as an assistant planner, seeking the challenge and variety that comes with working for a main contractor, and initially working alongside a colleague who was approaching retirement.

He benefitted from his colleague’s wealth of experience, particularly in justice sector planning work. The work is highly specialised in its scope, with specific reporting requirements and the application of lean programming techniques, which focus on delivering value, continuous improvement and eliminating waste. Zak was promoted to the role of planner in less than a year, and took on the training and management of a new assistant planner, all before the age of 21.

Zak loves his job and the variety of challenges it brings, but the desire to be part of the police service didn’t wane, so, in November 2020, he started training to become a volunteer police officer with Avon and Somerset Police. Qualifying in January 2021, Zak has now been on response for eight months and hasn’t looked back – special constables hold the same powers as regular police officers, and work alongside them in a position of trust and responsibility to prevent and detect crime. 

Zak Smith, Planner, UK

“It’s the best of both worlds – I’m a police officer but I’m also working in construction which I really enjoy, and I feel very lucky to have had this opportunity,” explains Zak.

The healthy work-life balance ethic championed by ISG means he can manage the combination of a full-time day job and police work on evenings and weekends. He has also taken advantage of his two volunteering days when the police has needed extra support – part of ISG’s More for you employee benefits package – as well as the option to book annual leave at short notice. As long as Zak delivers on his commitments to ISG, there is the flex to support his important role for Avon and Somerset Police. 

Zak Smith, Planner, UK

Zak’s two worlds aren’t mutually exclusive, and there is actually a great synergy between them. In the police, Zak’s planning skills are applied to recording data, as he needs to carefully account for every action. Data needs to be recorded in detail, with the reasoning as to why things have been carried out in a certain way. Police training then comes into play when Zak is strategising projects for ISG, as the planning stage can be likened to when he’s preparing to deal with a response situation.  

Zak explains what he sees as one of the rewarding aspects of justice sector projects: “We are currently delivering shower upgrade schemes across a number of prisons, often in Victorian buildings, to provide a better spec and modern facilities,” he says. “Research by the Ministry of Justice (MOJ) shows that if residents are given enhanced facilities, they will value and look after them – it’s rewarding to know we are delivering projects that make a difference and will impact current and future behaviours.” 

“It’s the best of both worlds – I’m a police officer but I’m also working in construction which I really enjoy, and I feel very lucky to have had this opportunity.” 

Zak Smith, Planner

This applies to a lot of the work undertaken by ISG for the MOJ, a relationship that dates back to 2004. We’re currently appointed to the MOJ’s Strategic Alliance Agreement (SAA) Framework, which covers new build, alterations, refurbishment and maintenance across the justice estate. Zak is working on a series of prison enhancement programmes covering shower upgrades, fire safety improvements, new window installations, and improved ventilation and heating.

ISG has also been appointed to the £1billion New Prison Programme Alliance, working alongside fellow contractors to build four new adult male prisons across the UK. The UK-wide team works together to share best practice, from phased building upgrades to new build capability, with Modern Methods of Construction (MMC) ensuring efficient and sustainable delivery. 

Zak Smith, Planner, UK

On the SAA Framework, Zak believes the team truly understands the MOJ’s requirements, and the need to ensure the continuity and security of critical infrastructure. It’s a logistically challenging process requiring a detailed approach to planning and project delivery. A decant strategy is adopted where possible, but not all prisons have capacity for this, so the team also works in live environments – requiring Zak to plan for additional security lines, access routes and phasing of stages.      

“I’d put the strength of the relationship down to great communication with the on-site teams, giving notice of our planned approach, and seeking regular feedback and input,” he says. “We also use visualisations to demonstrate how we plan to deliver the project successfully, bringing the approach to life.”  

Beyond the impact we can have in improving the quality of facilities and the associated behaviours this brings, as a business, ISG is also committed to supporting the MOJ’s focus on rehabilitation and reducing reoffending – delivering initiatives to develop the employability skills of those residents soon to be eligible for parole, offering work experience and employment opportunities, and providing project management support for the MOJ’s own schemes.

Zak says he wants to achieve something special in his life, to help people and play his part in supporting his local community. At 21, he’s already well on the way, showing what can happen when you follow your dreams – there is a very bright future ahead for this young bobby. 

  • Share this article