Discovering Careers in Construction – it’s a woman’s world.

Year 11 can be a stressful year for students, the culmination of six years of education ending in GCSE results. For some young people, it can be difficult to stay on track when you don’t know what you want to do next or how what you learn in school affects the real world. Who really needs maths anyway?

In our Southwark hub we ran a two day programme, Discovering Careers in Construction, for Year 10 students from St Saviour's & St Olave's School and Harris Academy Bermondsey. The aim of the programme was to give students for who university might not be the correct route, the space to conduct an intensive exploration into the wide breadth of available careers in the construction and built environment industry. Research tells us that helping young people discover a career that excites and interests them can inspire them in their school studies, giving them a direction and drive to achieve their fullest potential in their end of year exams (Education & Employers Charity, 2019).

We were really excited to work with the two all-girls schools, St Saviour's & St Olave's School and Harris Academy Bermondsey, to break down the gender stereotypes surrounding industry careers and inspire the young women about a range of careers that they’ve never previously considered as ‘for’ them. The practical and problem solving nature of many industry roles are often very attractive to young people who find sedentary classroom learning difficult. We wouldn’t want any young woman to miss out on the opportunities industry can offer just because she thought construction was a male environment.

The young women were taken on a fast-paced and jam-packed itinerary of sessions aimed at uncovering as many ‘hidden’ careers as possible over the two days. The ladies spent their first day looking at professional roles and under the guidance of a Digital Engineer, a Pre-Construction Coordinator, a Controls Manager, an Assistant Project Manager and an Engineer, the ladies conceived, developed and presented their own project designs. Being thrown in the deep end meant the mixed school groups had to quickly form a functioning team and apply themselves to the difficult task of project design, putting themselves in the shoes of the professionals assisting them. An exciting VR session followed the presentations, exploring the new ways technology is being used in construction and showing the girls the wide range of available digital roles in the sector.

Day 2 saw an exploration of trade roles, as the ladies got to grips with carpentry. The teams got stuck in straight away assembling their bird houses. It was really inspiring to see a workshop of young women being led by our in-house carpenter Wendy smashing the perceived male stereotype of construction.

The two day course was rounded off with an important session discussing post-16 options. It’s important to realise that the traditional 6th form/college to university route isn’t the best option for everyone and that there are a range of alternative pathways to choose from. The ladies took part in a large Q&A session with a number of new industry recruits spanning positions such as a Trainee Quantity Surveyor (as well as a QS Graduate & apprentice!), an Engineering Undergraduate, a Commercial Assistant, a Digital Design Engineer Apprentice, an Accounts Apprentice and a Trainee Engineer. All of the panel had arrived at their positions through a variety of routes, and will continue to gain their qualifications in a slightly different manner, but they will all become trained industry professions with the possibility of long and successful careers.. We feel that it is an essential part of our work in levelling the playing field for all young people that they are made aware of all the different routes into industry careers and can choose the option that best suits them and their situation.

For those participants interested in pursuing a career in construction our Southwark hub leads, Wendy and Megan, will work them one-to-one over their year 11 studies as part of our Building Bridges to Careers programme. The programme offers tailored support to help young people achieve a successful and appropriate post-16 outcome.