15 December 2021
A picture of It's never too late to retrain

When I left school, I felt that the expectation for most women was to go and work in an office, it didn’t matter where.

I didn’t question that career path and simply followed suit, I worked in banking, insurance and local councils. Until I worked in the council, I never really knew anything about the construction or maintenance industries, but I very quickly became very interested.

I really enjoyed organising all of the repair works for the operatives to go out and fix things, and I worked closely with the trade supervisors. However, I still didn’t see that I could really be part of it, I was just blinkered to think that I should stay in my office job until I retire.

That all changed in my late 20s when someone inspired me and asked me why I had been in the same job for over 10 years. It opened my eyes to realise that I can do anything with my life.

I was so inspired I decided I wanted to be a trade supervisor and researched different evening courses. I also went to see the maintenance manager to ask advice on how I could progress and what I needed to do.

He was very blunt. He told me it was too late for me to get into all of that, I needed a trade behind me, I needed a HNC in construction and that if I wanted to progress then I should talk to my manager and think about being a manager for the admin team one day.

That manager could have been the making or the breaking of me. Luckily it gave me the biggest fire in my belly to prove him wrong and prove to myself that I really could do anything. Whilst working full time, I went to evening colleges and Open University courses back-to-back.

I worked my socks off to get my BTEC in surveying and my HNC. I then qualified as a plumber. Part of the course covered electrics which I loved so much I then did my level 2, level 3, NVQ, AM2, 2391 and EV charging. 

In my working day I took every opportunity to learn from the supervisors and surveyors. I worked extra hours and gave up free time to go out on site to get practical experience in all areas of construction. I progressed to the supervisor job that I wanted, I flew the nest and since working for over eight years at Sanctuary I have progressed up the ladder of the Property Services team to Head of Property services in the East region.

It was exhausting at times but I never gave up and my greatest achievement was becoming an electrician as it is very difficult but worth it. Still to this day, if people ask me what I do for a living outside of work, I quite often say I’m an electrician as I am still so proud of that fact!

The greatest thing about my job now at Sanctuary, is that I am in the best position to help and inspire other to progress, especially women.

The construction industry has an ageing workforce. The UK faces a shortage of over 60,000 construction workers by the year 2050. We have a pool of over 50% of the population not being tapped into, that we can inspire into this industry.

It took London 2012 Olympics and the Women’s football world cup to inspire a generation to kickstart change for sports. We do not have that platform but if we work together across organisations, we can create that change.

We need role models. We need to inspire. We need to go into those schools and colleges to let those females know that this industry exists, that it’s exciting and that more importantly that they can be part of it! There has never been a better time for them to join.

There are some organisations and charities out there to offer advice and help, such as Women into Construction, the National Association of Women in Construction and the Women’s Trade Network. Please check them out or contact me for more details if you, or someone you know would like to consider a career in construction. It’s never too late to retrain.

Block