November is Women in Construction Month at Sanctuary Homes, celebrating those working with us and inspiring others to consider a career in the industry.

Sanctuary Homes staff member Andrea looking out over scaffolding

At Sanctuary we promote gender equality in construction and through our own MORE! programme we actively encourage our partners to promote jobs in construction to women who might not necessarily think of it as a career path.

We also work within schools, colleges and employment services to offer talks and webinars as well as highlighting work experience, training and apprenticeship opportunities on offer across England and Scotland.

Sanctuary are highly proud of our approach and throughout November we’ll be highlighting and celebrating some of the women who work in construction with us.

Read their stories below and if any career centres or education providers would like to know more about MORE! Women in Construction please get in touch with Colleen.Eccles@Sanctuary-Housing.co.uk. For further information on Sanctuary’s MORE! programme visit our online section here.

 

Karen Thorley wearing Sanctuary Homes protective gear

Who do you work for and what is your current role?

I work for Sanctuary Homes and my role is a Design Manager

How did you get into your role and what drew you to working in construction?

I started my career as an apprentice Architectural Technician over 30 years ago, where I excelled in drawing up house plans and undertaking the thermal and structural calculations as required for Building Regulations at that time.

I’ve always been a fan of Architecture since I was a child and used to build houses out of cardboard boxes, so this seemed to be an ideal career choice.  I had never really considered that I was entering a predominately male-orientated industry until I started College in a class of 3 women and over 30 men!

As I enjoyed the technical side of construction, I decided to go into engineering design; steel frames, roads and drainage, whilst studying for a degree in Construction Management part time. This opened up a variety of opportunities for me and I’ve since worked as a Design Manager, Site Manager and as an Asset/Maintenance Manager within civil engineering, social housing and education sectors, which has led to working on some fantastic projects over the years!

What do you like most about it?

The most rewarding aspect is being involved in creating a building, someone’s home, a permanent part of the built environment, and getting to see the development from its inception through to completion. 

Every day is different – you can be working at your desk one day and climbing scaffold on site to inspect roof vents the next. 

Any tips for other women thinking about a role in construction?

The Construction Industry is not all about digging holes and driving diggers (although I have operated a 22 ton excavator!).

There are so many varied roles and opportunities available for women including apprenticeships and graduate placements. 

You also don’t need to pretend to be ‘one of the lads’ – there are currently more female Architects, Structural Engineers, Mechanical Engineers, Quantity Surveyors and Site Managers, not to mention tradeswomen than ever before, however there is still a skills shortage within the industry which can only be met by a more diverse workforce.

Alice Patchett wearing protective gear

Who do you work for and what is your current role?

I work for Sanctuary Homes and my role is Assistant Development Manager in the Land and Planning team.

How did you get into your role and what drew you to working in construction?

I started as a Graduate Trainee at Sanctuary and worked across a range of different business areas before deciding to progress my career in the Group’s development and construction team.  The industry appealed to me because developing new housing is a very tangible goal which I find motivating and rewarding when the product is finished. It’s not just about high quality housing – I enjoy the process of ensuring that new homes are complemented by well-designed landscaping and facilities that can be enjoyed by the community.

What do you like most about it?

The variety of work is the best element. Every site I work on is different – whether in geographical location, mix of housing, technical constraints, or stage in the construction process. A day’s work could include meeting an ecological consultant on site to survey the nearby pond, to a call with a solicitor to negotiate a new building contract. 

On a national scale, housing and construction have been high up on the political agenda for a long time. As a result, there are always new elements of relevant planning policy, building regulations or government funding to get your head around.

The variety means that there’s always new challenges to face and overcome, and that I never stop learning.

Any tips for other women thinking about a role in construction?

If you have an interest in the industry, go for it! There is such a wide range of roles that there will be a team where your knowledge, skills and experience are highly valued.

When I started in the industry as a female in my early 20s, I was sometimes intimidated by both the gender and age imbalance I faced in meetings and on site. However, I soon learned that my contributions to the team were equally as valuable and my confidence grew.

The number of women in development and construction is growing, and I have worked alongside many highly talented women who have guided, trained and motivated me in my career to date. However, there is still a misconception that jobs in the industry are ‘better suited’ to men. Don’t ever feel you can’t pursue the career you want because of your gender! 

Kirsty Noble standing on a construction site

Who do you work for and what is your current role?

I work for Sanctuary Homes as an Assistant Development Manager. The role sees us looking after new-build home sites that Sanctuary Homes develop in England and Scotland, working alongside construction and architect teams to get new homes built ready for customers.

How did you get into your role and what drew you to working in construction?

As a child I was interested in architecture, old historic buildings and sketching them. I used to love exploring old ruins on holiday’s in the Scottish Highlands and learning about their history, which was one of the reason’s I chose to do a degree in Town Planning after leaving High School.

I struggled to gain a job in Planning after leaving University following the recession, so I decided to try a different route and worked in Roads Maintenance for my local council in Scotland. From there I moved down to Essex to another council.

I then decided to swap my Local Government knowledge and experience and moved to one of the Private Housing Developer’s as an Assistant Design Engineer. Here I used my Local Government skills to help push through legal agreements and gain access to sites…it helped improve my knowledge and experience working on building large scale development.

From here I then saw the opportunity to move across to work in Development at Sanctuary Homes.

What do you like most about it?

The best aspect of my job is watching the whole project come to life from designs on paper to the finished construction of a development but also knowing that you have helped to create and develop someone’s dream home.

Any tips for other women thinking about a role in construction?

Construction is not all about heavy manual labour, there is a lot of work that goes on in the background before the ‘actual’ construction on a site begins all the way through to completion.

Working in the Construction Industry can give you the option to try out many difference aspects through apprenticeships or Graduate schemes so you can see what different roles are.

It is also a great Industry to network and build relationships with lots of different companies and people from all walks of life.

 

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Who do you work for and what is your current role?

I work for Sanctuary Homes as an Assistant Development Manager.

How did you get into your role and what drew you to working in construction?

When I was a child, my Dad saved up coupons from the back of Corn Flakes boxes and sent off for a model village set. When it finally arrived, it kept me busy for hours; I remember setting up the houses in different layouts and driving little vehicles (also free thanks to Kellogg’s) around it.

When I finished my A Levels, I had no idea what I wanted to do but at a university open event I found it difficult to walk past the built environment stalls. I eventually opted for a course in Town Planning which I absolutely loved, and I went on to do the post graduate diploma so I could qualify for membership of the Royal Town Planning Institute.

My first job was as an Assistant Planner in Local Council, followed by a long career working in Local Planning specialising in housing delivery, regeneration and infrastructure.

After 16 years, it was time for a change and the opportunity at Sanctuary seemed an ideal way to learn more about house building and apply my Planning expertise in a different context. The timing of my arrival could have been better – I started at the beginning of March 2020! Despite coming into the role at the start of the pandemic I have already undertaken a huge variety of work and my colleagues have made me feel very welcome.

What do you like most about it?

It is wonderful to think that I have left a permanent change (hopefully for the better!) to the physical environment.

I have worked on the regeneration of parks and green spaces where the improvements are obvious to see. But seemingly much smaller changes can have just as big an impact, for example creating a house with a more user friendly layout will make every day easier for occupants.

Any tips for other women thinking about a role in construction?

In my experience, construction is more male dominated than Town Planning; the latter is fairly evenly balanced, but whichever part of the industry you are considering, and the opportunities are extremely wide ranging, we must remember that we are creating places for everyone.

This can only happen successfully if people with different experiences contribute to the development of the places that we all use.

For more information on our MORE! programme please visit our dedicated section here.

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