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How did you get into your chosen profession?
I moved up from Birmingham as my mum’s family lived up here and attended Trinity Solutions College which was where I found out about the apprenticeship opportunities with Newcastle City Council.
Including your apprenticeship how long have you worked in this profession?
5 years. 4 years of this was my apprenticeship.
Had you always wanted to work in construction? / what inspired you to go down that route?
I’ve been wanting to do bricklaying since I was kid. I’ve always been fascinated with it. I was six and my grandad took me to a building site he was working on and that just stuck with me for the rest of my life.
I remember seeing scaffolding and big buildings, obviously I didn’t know what they were at the time, but I was really excited. My mum used to tell my grandad off for coming back and forth in the house with his muddy riggers on and I never really knew why – now I get told off for the same thing!
My favourite toy as a kid was Lego, I just used to love building things with the blocks.
Was this a career path you felt was presented to you as an option as much as those traditionally considered “less masculine” when you were growing up? Did anyone in your school life or later training encourage or discourage you to work in this area?
At school I never felt like construction was an option for me to go into because there weren’t any other females who were interested in this profession.
Does it feel like a masculine environment or is that starting to change now?
For me I think it has changed and a lot of it depends on you as an individual. Don’t get me wrong, I love getting dressed up in my heels, but I’ve got four brothers and grew up around males. Since working at the council, I’ve never felt uncomfortable and always had praise from the lads telling me it’s great I decided to get into it.
What does your typical day involve? What parts of your role do you enjoy the most?
Typical jobs can include concreting and laying flagstones, building garden walls, fitting new drains when laying a new pavement, and so on.
I like the challenge of coming across something I haven’t done before and then standing back and looking at the finished product i.e. I’ve just built a wall!
How do people react to you – do you think they’re usually expecting a man? Do you ever receive any comments (positive or negative)?
I have had a lot of customers who question me when I turn up to the job…
“What are you doing here?”
“I’ve come to do your pointing”
“Well how are you going to lift the plant plots?”
Quite often I don’t get thanked by individuals when I’m working with someone on a job – they say “thanks mate, you’ve done a cracking job” but don’t address me. But then others are really complimentary. One man was driving down the street and stopped and said: “you’re a credit to us all, never seen a female bricklayer, it’s brilliant and you should be so proud of yourself”.
How important is it for more women to be encouraged into the industry?
It would be great – I think a lot of women may think it’s too hard or that they’ll get judged, but it really isn’t like that.
What would you say to any young women or girls who are interested in work of this nature? Any top tips for success or things they should or shouldn’t focus on?
Why shouldn’t we? We do just as good a job!