Women in Construction - Christine Townley

We caught up with our very own Executive Director to find out about her career in construction and passion for supporting young people into the industry.

Christine Townley, Executive Director of Construction Youth Trust has been working in the construction industry since the 70s. Her background as a Civil Engineer and her experience in the industry, coupled with her passion for working with young people, makes her the ideal person to run the charity.

In September 2004,she became only the third staff member of, what was then a small, low-profile construction charity with sparse funding, cramped accommodation and a distinctly modest set of achievements over its 40-year history.

Having trained to be a Civil Engineer in Newcastle in the 70s while working three summer jobs in construction, she qualified and went on to her first job at Binniey and Partners, consulting engineers based in London. She worked on damns and reservoirs across England, Wales and the Middle East and also worked on the construction of floodwalls and barriers downstream of the Thames Barrier.

Using that experience in construction Christine went into adult education where she realised her passion for working with young people. This led her eventually to the Trust to help young people with disadvantaged backgrounds to find careers in the industry.

Ten energetic years later, the organisation she joined is almost unrecognizable. The Trust has offices at The Building Centre in London, a network of regional offices, 28 staff and 4 mobile training classrooms. Respected throughout the built environment industry, its resources are deployed skillfully to run ambitious training and pre-apprenticeship programmes that open the eyes of thousands of young people and offer them career pathways that can change the course of their lives forever.

About the only thing unchanged during the past decade of achievements is Christine’s passion for her work. “I’m just as enthusiastic now as I was when I started,” she says.

Christine is passionate about construction and the opportunities it has for young people. She remembers why she was inspired to be part of the industry: “you work with people to build something and you provide solutions for society. You’re helping people with housing, providing fresh water, and somewhere to learn.

Construction provides every space that people live, breathe and work in.”

She is also extremely passionate about ensuring women are given equal opportunities to enter the sector which is why the Trust has been talking to and celebrating women in construction since the beginning of the year. She comments: “Construction is a great industry but many young female students don’t see construction as an option for them. So more needs to be done to enable them to see what great opportunities the sector has and the array of options out there. Even today only about 12% of the workforce is women and most of them are in administrative and professional roles. Only 1% of people at trade level are women. We need to change the face of construction.”

It is not only women who Christine believes can offer a great deal to the industry, she says Armed Forces Service leavers are a “hidden pocket of talent who are vital for the future of the industry.” Through a recent initiative called BuildForce, created in partnership with CITB and CTP the Trust is providing awareness events and brokering work experience placements for those leaving the military.

An inspirational leader, her contagious enthusiasm for the construction industry, and enormous commitment to helping build better futures for young people proved very appealing. Andy Wates, Chair of Trustees at the TurstTrust said, “under Christine’s leadership over the last ten years the Trust has gone from strength to strength through a combination of her passion and tenacity”

She has built up strong relationships within the industry throughout her ten years at the Trust and has inspired many to work with the charity and follow her lead in bringing diversity and new talent into the industry. Mike Bialyj, the Customer Services Director at CITB explains why he continues to work with Christine and the Trust after a long and successful partnership: “Christine has worked tirelessly and with great passion to get support and provide opportunities for so many young people to overcome barriers to employment in construction arising from their personal circumstances.

As a result, the Trust has helped many, many thousands of people over the years. It’s been a great pleasure to work with Christine and the Trust and to support the work and sheer energy that Christine has put into her role over the last 10 years.”