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The plumber who left school at 15 and is now winning big contracts and creating jobs in Wales

It comes more than 20 years after starting out as a one-man band in the business with just an apprentice for support.

Swansea-based Andrew D’Auria Solutions (ADS ) has just begun a five-year contract with the largest social housing provider in Wales, Pobl, to carry out electrical testing at every one of its 17,600 properties, mainly along the M4 corridor in south Wales. It means owner Andrew D’Auria has been able to double the workforce, with the power to add more in the coming years.

Where hard work got Andrew D’Auria

The continued rise of his company represents a far cry from where he found himself at the start of his career.

“I left school when I was 15 and didn’t do any GCSEs because I was very fortunate that the father of a girl I was in school with, who lived by me, took me on as an apprentice and then is when the plumbing career started,” he said.

“I joined college then, working with a few different people, then went to work away in London with a big commercial company and came back then to start the business up.

“I started as a one-man-band, just me in a blue Escort estate, with an apprentice. I carried on working and working hard. I was doing gas, heating and plumbing contracted to a company in Newport. Then I gradually got into British Gas Wales.”

He worked as AD Gas then and in 2010 formed a limited company, Andrew D’Auria Solutions (ADS).

The company is also a family affair as in 2017 Andrew asked his brother Anthony to join the team to help grow the business. Presently Anthony’s role is the operations and contracts manager who manages and oversees the big contracts for ADS. Anthony was a former Sergeant Major in 1st The Queen’s Dragoon Guards (The Welsh Cavalry).

Peter Roberts is another important person at ADS as he has helped to grow the electrical team. Peter started as a subcontractor and built up a working relationship with ADS, so soon became the electrical manager.

Professional progression is a key theme at ADS, as Kisha Hulland joined the company six years ago as an administrative assistant and is now instrumental in maintaining administrative compliance in order to keep the business running on a day-to-day basis.

“We pretty much do anything is the honest answer,” said Andrew about his company’s activities in its field of expertise.

There is always time to venture outside work constraints with support for the annual CARTEN100 charity cycle ride from Cardiff to Tenby.

“I have been one of the sponsors for a good few years, and I also do the ride myself,” he said. “I have put a bike studio in the office for myself and for any employee in the company to use for their wellbeing. We have two Swift Avatar bikes linked to an interactive screen taking in different parts of the world.”

ADS has continued to build its reputation as a business offering reliable and cost-effective results in domestic, commercial and industrial plumbing, heating electrical and building services.

Its growth has led then to several subcontracted partnerships with large organisations, including Pobl, the Welsh Government’s Warm Homes Nest Scheme, Swansea, Carmarthenshire and it is in the process of tender for Neath Port Talbot councils.

Now its relationship with the latter has been strengthened with the contract to carry out domestic and commercial electrical testing, PAT testing and smoke alarm servicing, and photovoltaic servicing.

Keeping households safe and creating jobs at the same time 

DS can carry out work at individuals’ domestic and commercial properties, but Andrew is very much aware of the significance of the new Pobl contract.

“We are in Carmarthenshire, Swansea and Neath Port Talbot doing work for their councils, so we are a very trusted company,” he said. “The Pobl contract is said to be one of the biggest contracts of its kind being awarded to a contractor in the UK.

“For a company in Wales to win this size of contract is brilliant, not just for my company, but for Wales itself. Our expansion throughout Wales is going to create more jobs as well

“Before Pobl, we had around 36 employees and now we have about 62. Going forward, I would have thought there are going to be another 20/30 employees so this time next year I hope we’ll have more than 100 employees in Wales.

“In the current climate people are losing their jobs, so when I can hire more people it feels absolutely fantastic. It does make me proud that I can create jobs in Wales.”

In fact, during the first lockdown, when more people had to work from home, the company’s workload increased by 30% as engineers were able to go into vacant offices and carry out electrical work not possible when computers were switched on.

“People using ADS get a professional service from us. It’s the way I want my employees to work – with professionalism. It’s please and thank you, putting the customer at ease.

“We don’t just do electric, we do gas as well, so we are testing gas properties in the domestic and commercial world. We are testing properties for other organisations on the gas side as well. It is all about keeping people safe.

“There is a great satisfaction for the engineers themselves and for the company when we get feedback from our customers, saying how well-mannered, tidy and clean the boys out in the field are and how good a job they did. We do get a lot of feedback regarding that, and it does make me feel proud. It is just the way they have been taught.”

Putting customers’ minds at ease

Nerys Martin, Pobl ’s strategic contracts and service support manager, described the new tie-up as an exciting new chapter in their two-year-old relationship. It covers the company’s schemes, care homes and individual homes. 

“As the largest social housing provider in Wales, Pobl is proud to support ADS with their growth, providing great work opportunities for the people of Wales and within the communities we support,” she said. “This contract will be supporting our stock of 17,600 properties across our geographical spread throughout Wales.

“ADS share, as a partner to Pobl, the values we uphold, being positive, connected and considerate. They consistently put our customers at the heart of all they do and we love their positive ‘can-do’ attitude. Pobl looks forward to what the future holds for this partnership.”

The agreement means that ADS provides tenancy liaison officers to help with any issues that tenants may have.

“They will help with any queries that they may have about work being undertaken in their homes, to help with gaining access, to help with gaining hearts and minds,” said Nerys.“You can appreciate after the pandemic that people are cautious about letting people into their homes. They will help build that relationship with the customers and put their minds at ease. They meet our values as a company.”

Pobl is a not-for-profit organisation is currently building over 1,200 homes across 36 developments, with many more in the pipeline. It has recently exceeded its target of creating 3,000 much-needed new homes in the last five years, and has recently outlined its ambitions for the new decade that includes investing in a further 10,000 new homes by 2030.

By Chris Peregrine, Commercial Writer for Wales Online.