What made you choose a career in the industry?
I didn’t know what I wanted to do as a teenager. I only knew that sitting in an office all day wouldn’t suit me. I’ve always been interested in how things are made and as I got closer to finishing school, I started to look at getting a trade. I also looked to others for advice and a few people who worked in the management side of the construction industry suggested I start by getting work experience on a construction site. I took that advice and haven’t looked back!
What was your route into the industry – i.e., university, internship?
I studied A’ Levels in maths, physics and computing at college. I chose them because they felt broad enough to do a lot of things with. After finishing my A’ Levels, I was offered two weeks’ work experience at Vinci shadowing a site manager. It was the first time I’d been on a construction site. The site manager showed me what was involved in day-to-day site management, and I helped where I could. I ended up staying on the site as a labourer and after a month, the company asked if I’d be interested in studying for a degree in construction management while working on site in my spare time. My degree gave me a NVQ Level 6 equivalent. At a later date, I could choose to do an NVQ level 7 in Management.
What advice would you give to others trying to get into the industry?
Get work experience in the industry! It’s a unique environment and it’s important to work out if it suits you. It’s a very fast-paced environment, working with lots of different types of people, and isn’t for everyone. The labouring I took on after my A’ Levels was invaluable – learning and understanding how a large construction site works gave me the range of experience I needed to decide if it was for me. I work alongside architects, designers, and quantity surveyors daily. There are many different routes to take so trying it out first will help you decide what you enjoy and given the vast range of opportunity, what you start out doing isn’t necessarily what you will finish off doing!
What’s the most important lesson you’ve learnt so far from working in the industry?
Never give up! In construction, issues both big and small are common – it’s not always plain sailing. Every day you will be faced with different challenges, and it can be easy to think there isn’t a solution or a way round it. Train yourself to keep going and keep solving them one at a time as they get thrown at you.
What are the things you love most about working in the industry?
I love how social it is. I’m always meeting new people and working in different teams. In every job there are familiar faces and new faces and the projects change too. After nearly five years, I have worked on three major projects in three different places covering theatre refurbishments, a cinema, a block of flats and shops. It’s great to be able to pack your stuff up after two years and start up again in a different place. There’s also a good pathway for progression. For example, electricians doing the on-site install might become supervisors, and then electrical managers, and then go on to become mechanical and electrical managers with a team, and so it goes on.
Finally, it’s incredibly rewarding seeing something that has taken so much planning and detail being physically built on a large scale – it’s a big responsibility but something to be proud of. If you’re the type of person who likes a challenge, it’s a brilliant industry to work in. I would definitely recommend it!