Founder of AccXel takes over family's 56-year-old Forest of Dean firm as new chief of operations

Described as a 'significant step' towards gender equality in the industry, Nicola Bird, founder of the trailblazing AccXel Construction School in Cinderford, has been announced as the new chief operations officer for her family's company, KW Bell Group.

By Jake Chown  |  Published
KW Bell Group managing director Peter Bell says the leadership of his daughter and new group COO, Nicola Bird, will inspire more women and girls to pursue careers in construction.

Founder and managing director of Cinderford's AccXel Construction School, Nicola Bird, is following in the footsteps of her grandfather and father by taking on a new role at the top of her family's construction company, KW Bell Group, as chief operations officer (COO).

Founded in 1968 by Keith Bell, who sadly passed away in March 2024, the Cinderford-based group has gone from humble beginnings more than half a century ago to encompassing four businesses — Bell Contracting, Bell Homes, Bell Plant and The Belfry Hotel in Littledean — the success of which has been driven by Keith's son, Peter, with the group boasting combined turnover of £86 million in 2023.

Employing more than 500 people across its divisions, the group has a built a strong reputation in the construction sector across the south west of England and south wales, working with a large client base including five of the top ten housebuilders in the UK.

The group says the appointment of Nicola, who will work alongside her father and the group's managing director, Peter, at the top of the firm, heralds 'a new chapter' in its history, promising continued growth, innovation and an 'unwavering commitment' to diversity in the sector.

Having taken on her first role with the KW Bell Group as a part-time administration clerk 15 years ago, Nicola's journey has been one of 'steady advancement and innovation', leading to her founding the UK's first industry-led construction school, AccXel, in 2021 with funding from GFirst LEP and the UK government.

Her appointment as COO also follows the recent announcement that her sister, Natalie King, would be stepping up from her position as growth and partnerships director to become joint managing director at AccXel.

Nicola said: 'I am absolutely thrilled to have been appointed as the COO of KW Bell Group. This company holds a special place in my heart as it's where my journey in the construction industry began, igniting my passion for progression and education within this field.

'Our initiative, AccXel, is a true testament to three generations of construction expertise, pioneering the UK's first and only industry-led construction school.

'Maintaining a deep understanding of the industry is crucial for our success, and I am dedicated to remaining hands-on and actively engaged at the coalface.

'Furthermore, with my sister recently promoted to Joint Managing Director of AccXel, I am confident that it is in capable hands, ensuring a seamless transition and further enhancing our impact within the industry'.

Peter Bell further emphasised the significance of family legacy and continuity within the business. 'Our family business has thrived for over 50 years, supporting communities in the Southwest and South Wales. We have a responsibility to our employees, their families, and our clients to ensure the longevity of our business for generations to come.'

He added: 'I'm proud to have my daughter by my side, particularly in an industry that remains predominantly male-dominated. Nicola's leadership will inspire more women and girls to pursue careers in construction, addressing the skills crisis facing our industry.'

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