He rubs shoulders with captains of industry and government ministers on a regular basis and has also been known to bare all – quite literally – on the stage. Andrew Carpenter is as much at home treading the boards as he is in the boardroom.

Andrew has been chief executive of the Structural Timber Association (STA) since 2011 but his professional career began in the masonry industry. His professional life has been intertwined throughout with his combined passions of music and musical theatre. He was born and raised in Frome and still lives in the Somerset market town. His parents were responsible for his love of the greasepaint if not his career.

“My father was an accountant and my mother was a secretary but their real passion was amateur theatre and they were both members of the local amateur operatic society. Dad was a comedian and mum was a dancer.” As well as exposing him to the am-dram circle, Andrew’s parents also instilled a sense of community in him, something he has demonstrated throughout his life, having been a school governor, a trustee of two theatres, and chairman of the Frome millennium celebrations. He is currently chairman of the trustees of Frome’s Merlin Theatre.

His father was “undoubtedly” the biggest influence on his life. “He was a massive influence – no-one else has come close. He had a larger than life personality and when he came into a room he would light it up. “He didn’t make me rich or clever but the one thing he gave me is tremendous self-confidence. I’ve never imposed a glass ceiling in my life and as I’ve gone on I’ve realised how important this self-confidence is to get me through things.” Andrew attended Frome Grammar, where he became deputy head boy and also fostered his love of cricket and, particularly, football. “I’m a terrible sportsman but I do love it and was the only person to get football and cricket colours without actually playing for the school. I got my cricket colours for scoring and umpiring and my football colours for refereeing.”

In fact, he said, his football refereeing took him further in the sport than if he had played. Having taken it up at 13, he officiated at football matches for the next 40 years. He officiated at a high level at reserve football matches at Highbury, Stamford Bridge and The Dell, home to his beloved Saints, until he was 32 when a back problem put pay to that. He then refereed and subsequently managed a local youth football team in Frome.

Andrew’s love of football persists and he and his brother are season ticket holders at Southampton FC. School was followed by a time in the music industry.

“My father had run an entertainments business as an aside to his accountancy and he used to run dances in Frome,” said Andrew. “In between the live music – 60s bands such as the Trogs and Unit Four Plus Two – a lad called Derek James used to play records for my dad. He went on to become a well-known agent for people such as Noel Edmonds and, when I left school in 1975, because my dad had given him work when he was a youngster he offered me work as a DJ.” Andrew still DJs but after two years of this being his full-time occupation, his father said he ought to get “a proper job”.

“Living in the Mendips you either went into agriculture or quarrying. There were a couple of jobs going, one for Hanson (ARC as it was then) and one for Forticrete. Hanson was paying £25 per week and Forticrete £40 per week, so obviously I went to Forticrete.” After a year of working in the office Andrew was offered a sales rep job. His salary rose from £2,400 per year to £3,600 per year, plus a company car and as he was about to get married he said, “I thought I’d died and gone to heaven”.

“In my first year I got £1,000 commission and was able to buy a three-piece suite and a wall unit – all the things you need when you’ve just got married!”

During his 28 years with Forticrete he had about eight different jobs, all of which were in sales, marketing or business development. His time at Forticrete led to another big part of his professional life when he became involved with Constructing Excellence. “Following the Latham Report in 1994 I was working with one of my Forticrete clients, Laing O’Rourke, who introduced me to the concept of partnering.”

Andrew provided technical advice, enabling Laing O’Rourke to make savings in their design, and prices were agreed three years ahead of construction. In return, Andrew was guaranteed the order at list price.

“It was a win-win and I’ve been sold on the concept of partnering ever since because I’ve seen it work.”

In 1998 the Egan Rethinking Construction Report was published and Andrew found himself working with major companies who were engaging in construction best practice programmes. Andrew jumped on board with the concept and set up the Bristol Best Practice Club in 1999. It was a voluntary role while he continued working at Forticrete but the branch became the biggest best practice club in the UK and in 2003, when all the improvement agenda bodies got together under the auspices of Constructing Excellence, Andrew was asked to join the board – again as a volunteer.

He also became chairman and national representative of the 50-plus best practice clubs across the UK, a position he held until 2006. Redundancy ended Andrew’s time at Forticrete in 2005 but he was snapped up by Constructing Excellence and became its public face. “I looked after all its marketing and communications, events and membership. Anything that was customer facing, I was the man.”

“I loved it and realised I was probably more suited to being this industry figure than I was as a sales man. I enjoyed selling but, looking back, selling was quite cynical, whereas now I could talk about best practice and deliver that knowledge, which I found very rewarding.”

Unfortunately government funding was withdrawn and after just over two years Andrew was made redundant again. He retained his involvement, however, and is now director of Constructing Excellence South West, for which he works one day a week. Then, in 2010, the call came from the UK Timber Frame Association (UKTFA), the precursor to the STA.

“They wanted someone from outside the timber industry,” said Andrew. “They wanted a fresh pair of eyes and the combination of having worked for a manufacturer, the last three years of which was with the offsite business, the years at Constructing Excellence and my contacts within government and trade bodies was what they were looking for.” He spent the first three months getting to know the industry by visiting around a third of the membership (then 180).

“I found an industry that was very strong on technical knowledge and had a real ability to deliver quality but it had its chin on its chest – as did the rest of the construction sector – because we were in the deepest recession that any of us has witnessed.

“It also had a cottage industry culture. Events I attended had timber people talking to timber people – there was nobody in the room who could influence the wider use of timber. “The sector was also very fragmented and there was some infighting and everyone was seen as the enemy – timber frame versus SIPs, for example – rather than looking at the bigger picture of encouraging more people to specify and buy timber.” The first two years were a transition period where the sector was urged to “think bigger and more strategically”, to work together and to integrate with other parts of the supply chain.

Andrew cites the STA’s attitude towards fire as an example. Much the same as environmentalists were seen as the bane of the timber industry’s life in the 90s, so anyone in the fire protection lobby was seen as the enemy. However, engagement with them and the STA’s work on fire safety guidance has meant “we’re now seen as part of the solution, not the problem”.

“We brought about a complete change of culture and, coupled with the fire safety guidance, we are now perceived in a completely different way with regards to the fire agenda,” said Andrew. “That is one of the achievements I am most proud of.”

Other achievements have included the bringing together of exponents of different timber construction methods and the morphing of the UKTFA into the STA in 2013. The STA now represents the interests of not just timber frame but also SIPs, glulam and CLT. The membership has risen from 180 to around 450 and includes companies from across the supply chain, from manufacturers to architects, engineers and clients, such as Barratt Homes and Whitbread.

“When we started overcoming problems like fire and making ourselves more open, the market share grew and it is now 27.6%, which I think is the highest it’s ever been.” “One of the key issues we’re looking at now is raising the bar in terms of quality among structural timber erectors. From January 1, 2019, all STA erectors will have to go through a timber frame competency scheme, which we introduced with funding from the Construction Industries Training Board. “STA manufacturers will only be able to use STA erectors, thereby ensuring that if you use one of our members for a project, you will get a quality job,” continued Andrew. “I

suppose the nearest thing you can compare it to is the CORGI scheme in the gas industry. “We want the STA mark to mean something and we are now getting insurers, mortgage lenders and so on to buy into what we are doing and to applaud it. For example, the Local Authority Building Control (LABC) and Premier Guarantee have acknowledged and endorsed our quality assured mark.”

The attraction of the industry to Andrew back in 2010 was that he could see it was delivering sustainability “that’s real” and felt it was a wonderful opportunity for him to help grow a sector that would be “for the good of mankind”.

“This isn’t meant to sound twee but as you get older you like to think you are going to leave a legacy and if mine can be that I’ve helped the timber industry to grow and that it’s for the good of mankind, then I will think I have done a good job.”

Andrew remains highly motivated. “I’m very lucky because I love what I do and I can’t wait to get up in the morning,” he said. “When I hit 60 I asked my wife, Liz, how she’d feel if I said I wanted to carry on working until I’m 70. She said ‘fine’ because she knows I’m happiest when I’m doing what I’m doing.”

That includes a raft of extra-curricular activities, some business related and some rather less so. As mentioned, he is still a director of Constructing Excellence South West, working there one day a week.

“For example, I am heading up an ‘adopt a school’ campaign throughout the south-west and have got 41 schools partnered with 41 construction-related companies. They are now working together to promote construction as a career and improve the image of the industry.” Andrew is also a member of the Housing Forum, having served on the board for three years, and is on the ‘image committee’ of Build UK. He has also just been asked to reprise a role as an adviser for BIM for housing for the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (formerly the Department for Business Innovation and Skills).

If he hadn’t followed a career in the construction industry, Andrew would be a DJ or working in musical theatre – his two great loves outside football.

He won DJ of the Year for Wales and the south-west in 1986 and worked for a time for Richard Branson and the Virgin Group. He was reportedly the highest paid DJ outside London.

“I loved it and worked with all the Radio 1 DJs of the day – Mike Reid, Steve Wright, Peter Powell – and with all the acts of the 1980s, including the Thompson Twins, Howard Jones and Blancmange.

“I think if I’d been doing it to pay the mortgage I wouldn’t have enjoyed it so much but because it was a hobby it was great.” He left the nightclub scene and became host DJ at Center Parcs, Longleat for 12 years before returning to the mobile circuit.

All three of Andrew’s children have followed his hobby rather than his career and work very successfully in the entertainment world, something of which he is immensely proud. As well as being a DJ, Tom is a singer and has appeared on television on The Voice, while Helen is a DJ in a surf club on the Gold Coast in Australia. Meanwhile eldest son James (aka Jumpin’ Jimmy Flash) is one of the producers on the Chris Evans breakfast show on Radio 2 and works on outside broadcasts such as CarFest and Dine & Disco. Despite his busy schedule, Andrew still finds time to perform in two musicals a year.

“I’ve been involved in amateur theatre pretty much all my life, in fact, it wasn’t until my dad died when I was 32 that I realised that being on stage wasn’t obligatory.

“I’ve probably done more than 80 musicals, usually in leading roles. I’ve played the lead in the King and I, Mack Sennett in Mack and Mable, Sky Masterson in Guys and Dolls, Fred Graham in Kiss Me Kate and the Pirate King in the Pirates of Penzance. Pantomime roles have included Captain Hook and an ugly sister. “My most recent role was Juan Peron in Evita, which won Best Musical in Somerset in 2016, and I’ve just been cast in White Christmas as General Waverley.

“I’ve also been asked to understudy Henry Higgins in My Fair Lady at the Bristol Hippodrome, which I am very excited about.” Andrew is certainly not shy, which brings us back to baring all.

“I never thought I’d go naked on stage but eight years ago I was in The Full Monty. The things you do!”