Welcome to COYO Headquarters


Welcome to COYO Headquarters


Alison Watson MBE

Founder and Chief Executive

Fiercely passionate with a big heart, Alison is an unshakable optimist, always smiling and approaches everything she does with the same cheerful enthusiasm and pragmatic approach.

Alison is married to a fellow lover of all things ‘great outdoors’. She’s Mum to a music-mad future Live Sound Engineer and Step-Mum to a horse-mad groom at the Royal Mews.

She’s a former Land Surveyor and always called it the ‘best job in the world’ – until she started COYO of course. She now ploughs her energy into helping young people discover what they might ordinarily miss.

Alison cares deeply about the future of the construction industry. Her enduring ambition to enable the development of home-grown talent through the Design Engineer Construct! Learning Programme is now being fulfilled globally. This is thanks to her hugely dedicated team and the support of the incredible COYO ‘family’ of like-minded education and industry professionals.

In recognition of her years of commitment, Alison has been awarded a Doctor of Engineering honorary degree from the fantastic Heriot-Watt University, elected Honorary Fellow of the Chartered Institution of Civil Engineering Surveyors and awarded the President’s Award and Richard Carter prize. She was nominated to the Board of the Construction Scotland Innovation Centre, represented Youth and Learning for the Construction Industry Training Board Council and honoured with an MBE for services to education in HM The Queen’s 2018 New Year Honours.

Photo of Alison Watson MBE, Founder and Chief Executive of COYO
Alison pictured with her family

Daniel McDonagh

Teaching Development Manager

Enthusiastic and energetic, friendly and outgoing, Dan is a shining example of the positive impact DEC can have on teachers, and indeed that teachers can have on their DEC students.

Teaching since 2008 in the UK, Dan has taught DEC since 2012 at Levels 1, 2 and 3 in an 11-18 Manchester school. His nine-year experience developing and leading DEC made him the ideal candidate to move to COYO in 2019.

Dan is always available to support and develop our family of new and existing DEC teachers and their learners. He is passionate about empowering young people to take control of their own futures through employment-focused learning.

In addition to being awarded the Institution of Civil Engineers “ICE 200 medal” for his outstanding contribution to raising awareness of the sector, Dan is a qualified teacher, a Specialist Leader of Education and holds a Masters in Education with a focus on creativity.

Daniel McDonagh pictured in the classroom teaching DEC
Dan pictured with his family

Matt Simmons

Head of Partnerships – London & South East

Matt loves nothing more than bringing people and ideas together to create projects that enthuse young people about the Built Environment. He’s our go-to for collaborations on major projects with our partners London Legacy Development Corporation and Transport for London

Initially trained as a chemical engineer, Matt spent 10 years working in energy and environmental consulting, working on projects from micro-renewables and home refurbishments, to large-scale power generation and new housing development.

Realising the power of education to transform lives and aspirations, Matt spent the subsequent 10 years educating and inspiring the next generation to create a more sustainable Built Environment so feels right at home in the COYO family.

Alongside his Engineering degree, Matt holds an MSc in Globalisation and Development, and has had articles published in the Proceedings of the Insititute of Civil Engineers, Oxford University Press and Imperial College Press. He is a member of the Institute of Leadership and Management, a Fellow of the Royal Society of the Arts, a STEM Ambassador, a London Enterprise Advisor and a former school governor.

Photo of Matt Simmons, DEC Partnership Manager
Matt pictured with his family

Linda Lonsdale

Administration Officer

Happy and helpful, practical and down-to-earth, Linda likes to see every project started and finished with positive outcomes for DEC students, teachers and all involved. She keeps the COYO cogs turning, supporting our team, schools, industry and academic partners.

Linda is a married to a farmer and Mum to two grown up children. When she’s not working at COYO, you’ll find her on the farm tending to livestock, growing vegetables and looking after local habitats as part of the Countryside Stewardship scheme.

She is passionate about the natural environment and sustainability and cares deeply about the future of our planet.  

Photo of Linda Lonsdale COYO Administration Manager

Angela Whitwell

Finance Officer

Friendly, approachable and always happy to help, Angela has been Finance Officer at COYO since startup. Another downtoearth Lancastrian, she is known for being a straight-talking, well-organised problem solver.

COYO benefits from her wealth of experience in banking, bookkeeping, accounts, and her continued role as Honorary Treasurer for many community groups.

Away from COYO, Angela loves nothing more than being busy. She helps to run the family’s dairy farm, is very involved in the local community, and is a key member of the local council. On top of all that, she is also Vice President of the Young Farmers’ Club for young people aged 10-26 who have an interest in all things rural.

Angela’s favourite phrase is ‘from small acorns grow mighty oaks’. She believes this is true in all walks of life, and no more so than at COYO, where she has a desire to see the organisation grow to help more young people realise their potential and ambitions.

Photo of Angela Whitwell, COYO Finance Officer