Denise Forster - learn about construction.

I’ve worked in construction since 2009 and got into the industry on the back of Process Mapping, which involves working out where you need to start, where you will end up and all the tasks in between.

My job is office-based and slightly technical but it is mainly looking after all the documents side of things. For example; if a site needs a risk assessment form for something to do with health and safety, it is my job to make sure they pick up the most recent version.

Previously I worked within the NHS and Financial Services, so construction is quite different. Every day offers something new or challenging to do.

You meet all sorts of people; from the traditional Site Workers and Co-ordinators who are at the coalface, to Site and Project Managers, Business Developers, Marketers, IT, Trainers, Health, Safety and Environmental Advisors, Estimators, Quantity Surveyors and Company Directors.

There are a whole host of non-traditional roles in construction which support site staff do what they are good at.

Attracting Younger Talent

The industry has an experienced workforce, but it is important that we manage up and coming talent to step in as required. But to get that talent, we have to get them excited about joining the industry.

‘Step up into Construction’ works with young people looking into construction careers, or with people who might have left the industry and want to get back in.

My colleague Amanda (Davidson) and I went to York College to do the Tetrahedron Activity you can get from the Go Construct Resources. You use canes and rubber bands to build 3 sided pyramids, and then join them together to create a structure up to a maximum size of four by four metres.

It’s brilliant because instead of talking at people, they are involved. The task can cover many elements of construction, it’s not just about the building, just like Construction is not just about building; there’s estimating, quantity surveying, quality control, managing programme, Health and Safety.

Terry's factory exterior. Grade II listed in York

We also took the same students to see a heritage job we are Principle Contractor on, the old Terry’s Chocolate Factory Offices in York. It is Grade II Listed and been closed for years. Most of the work in there has to be done extremely carefully and to heritage standards.

There are around 300 sash windows to be refurbished, which means removing and renovating thousands of panes and casements to bring them up to modern standards.

The great thing about heritage work is once parts goes back in they could be there for another 100 years or more. That really inspired the students, who wouldn’t want to share that with their Grand Kids – “see those windows? I did them!”


In schools now, there seems to be a big push to get students into 6th Form, do A-levels and get them into University. That is fine for some, but it is not the right route for everyone. Apprenticeships can really give them a boost.

We have Apprentice Joiners and an Apprentice Estimator, at Simpson (York) Limited, as it’s really important to have that next layer of talent coming through. It’s a useful route and allows us to shape our own people in our ways, they then really understand how the business ticks.

By going down the apprentice route, individuals can also move on to do HND/HNC or even a degree if they want to – for some people this is a steadier route as it is more gradual. From a company perspective, they can see the benefit of the learning whilst the individual is also adding to their bottom line. Everybody wins, they get a worker and the individual gets trained.

Everyone in the industry can help promote careers in construction. Amanda is the driving force here, going into the local community and running events in Colleges, Job Centres, High Schools and even Primary Schools, all in addition to her ‘day job’ in HR!

When we work with Primary Schools, we love to engage with the children, speaking mainly about staying safe around construction sites, but we never missing an opportunity to switch them on to the possibilities for careers in construction.

It is great, for a company like ours, to go into schools and colleges and see the lights ‘go on’, to show young people just how big this industry is and that there could be a role for most people, at all levels. Getting it right gives us a warm fuzzy feeling, putting someone on the right track or even changing someone’s life.