Attracting more young women to work in the construction industry is vital for its success. Go Construct speaks with Hollie Statham and Jonathan Hunter, the creators of the Building Better Futures initiative, to find out how they are hoping to raise awareness, raise aspirations and break down stereotypes of the industry.
Building Better Futures provides real-life footage and resources highlighting the range of diverse opportunities available within the built environment and demonstrates some of the great work being achieved by women in the industry. We discuss Hollie and Jonathan’s background in construction, what the initiative is trying to achieve, why it’s so important to help young women realise their ambitions and much more.
Tell us a bit about yourself, your role and the company you work for
Hi, I’m Hollie and I am a Design Manager at Bowmer and Kirkland, one of the largest, most successful privately owned construction and development groups in the UK. I joined B+K after graduating from University in 2018 with a BA Hons degree in Architecture. My role as Design Manager means I am based predominantly on site, ensuring coordination between the consultants and subcontractors on the job and working with the project team to ensure the design information we have enables us to build on time, on budget and to client requirements.
Hi, my name is Jonathan, and I am a partner at GSSArchitecture. We are a national architectural practice with five offices across the country working on projects across a range of different sectors. As a partner, I am responsible for the day-to-day running of our Newcastle and Harrogate Office, including bidding for projects. I am also responsible for leading the design and delivery of projects in my region.
What is your favourite thing about working in construction?
Hollie: I love working as part of a team and coming up with innovative design solutions to better the delivery and outcome of the project. Being able to walk/drive past a project I have been involved in gives me real job satisfaction as I can look at the building and say: ‘I contributed to that’.
Jonathan: The thing about working in construction is that there is no ‘standard’ day, meaning that each day is interesting. One day you could be in a design workshop, developing concept designs for a new building and the next you could be on site resolving technical detailing issues. Construction is often a long process and that is what results in variety. However, my favourite thing is handover of a brand-new building that the team has been working on for years, and seeing that everyone is happy with the finished product.
“No day is ever the same and I love that about the industry”
What attracted you into the sector and how did you get into it?
Hollie: I have always loved art and my love for architecture grew as I travelled as a young adult. I took art, English language and ICT as my A-Levels and then went to Liverpool University to study architecture. Upon graduation, I wanted to gain more first-hand site experience and better my technical knowledge, so when I heard about design management, I thought ‘this sounds like the job for me’. It allowed me to combine my creativity with analytical thinking and provided the opportunity to influence many projects, rather than working full time in an office environment.
Interested in finding out more about a design manager? Check out the job role here
Jonathan: In many ways I was a late starter to architecture. I was 21 before I decided to go back to University and study architectural technology on a three-year degree. Before that, I had started my working life as a race mechanic and fabrication engineer at Silverstone Racing Circuit, fabricating, maintaining, and running race cars of various shapes and sizes.
There were various reasons for changing direction in my career and I still have a strong passion for cars and precision engineering. I think it is the technical and engineering aspect of delivering great buildings that really attracted me to a career in construction and I suppose from that point of view, there are some similarities to motor racing.
As a mature student, I was keen to get some work experience following my first years’ study throughout the Summer months and GSS gave me that opportunity. I never looked back. I was impressed by the people, the support that was offered and by the opportunities for personal growth and development that were clearly available. I was also excited by the range of high-quality projects that GSS was working on at that time and the opportunity to get involved.
If you would like find out more about what work experience could offer you, click here
How did the Building Better Futures initiative come about and who is it for?
Both: Building Better Futures is aimed at young people who may be considering a career in construction. Construction offers a huge range of opportunities for anyone that is interested regardless of their background and it is important that people are aware of the hundreds of roles that are available. It is not just about being an architect or laying bricks, although they are both very good careers too.
As part of the NEUPC (North Eastern Universities Purchasing Consortium) Engagement Group, we noticed there was a clear gap in the market when it comes to resource for promoting roles within the construction industry to young females. The average pay gap in the construction sector stands at 28% with construction still being a male-dominated industry. Even at apprentice level, the sector attracts few women. The North East has excellent primary results in terms of attainment and aspiration but less so in secondary school. This highlighted the need to reach out to young people both before and after that transition period. This is how ‘Building Better Futures' started.
"We need to engage the best and brightest of the next generation"
What are the core aims of the project and why are they important to you?
Both: Building Better Futures has three aims:
- Raise Aspirations: Target the widest range of youngsters from the broadest social backgrounds in the North East
- Raise Awareness: Promote the breadth and depth of careers and opportunities available in the construction industry
- Breakdown Stereotypes: Highlight that the construction industry is available to everyone and to show that there are many women already playing key roles in construction
These aims are really important to us because if the construction industry is to continue driving innovation and addressing the real issues facing our society today, then we need to engage the best and brightest of the next generation. Construction offers great career opportunities for everyone.
We hope that Building Better Futures highlights the diversity and opportunities available in the construction industry for students to have successful, long careers in the sector.
Why is it important to encourage more women into the sector?
Hollie: Although the numbers are increasing, it is important to have women in the construction industry as they provide a totally different perspective and bring a different skill/mindset to the industry that it is currently missing.
Jonathan: For some reason, there is still a perception that construction is for blokes and that just is not true. We hope that by highlighting the range of different roles available in construction and showcasing the women that have already built successful careers for themselves, this will help to breakdown the stereotype.
What advice would you have for someone thinking about a career in construction?
Hollie: It has been the best decision I have ever made. There is so much room for progression and as mentioned earlier, it provides major job satisfaction. No day is ever the same and I love that about the industry.
Jonathan: If you are considering a career in construction, there are a lot of resources available to help you find out more. One thing I found particularly helpful was getting some work experience in the early days. This gave me a much better understanding of how buildings are designed and built and meant that I was able to talk to people that had been working in construction for many years. I benefitted enormously from their experience and it helped me to understand my best route into a career in architecture.
It’s important to remember that there are loads of ways to get into construction such as apprenticeships, work placements and other training schemes and you don’t necessarily need any formal qualifications such as a degree. Organisations like the CITB or professional bodies like the RIBA, RICS or CIAT will all be able to point you in the right direction.