It’s not a man’s job, it’s your job!

Women should not be excluded or deterred from exploring all roles within the construction industry; there are opportunities aplenty and the industry needs you, says Jean Duprez MBE

It’s an exciting time for anyone looking at an apprenticeship to take as a first step on the career ladder. So much is happening with regard to Trailblazers, the apprenticeship levy, qualifications and Higher and Degree Apprenticeships. It is vital that the right information gets across to parents and young people in order to inspire and educate on their choices.

My goddaughter is leaving school next year and was advised that she should look to attend college and select healthcare or beauty. She remarked that her godmother was in construction and had recommended a career in this sector. She was firmly told: “construction is not for females”.

It is mind-boggling to believe that this attitude still occurs in 2016, while prominent projects such as Tideway and HS2 (High Speed 2) are leading the way in aiming to achieve 50 per cent women on site.

One reason women are often put off from the construction industry is the belief that all roles require physical strength usually associated with male physicality. Long gone are the days where you need to be a strapping, iron-pumping man to qualify to work in this industry. Employers welcome diversity within the industry and this is supported by modern building techniques through composite materials and state-of-the-art lifting equipment that easily manoeuvres heavy or bulky materials and prefabricated sections. The Health and Safety at Work regulations and Manual Handling Operations regulations both focus on keeping workers safe and in good health – recognising that workers come in all shapes and sizes, irrespective of gender or ability.

Women should not be excluded or deterred from exploring all roles within the construction industry. There are opportunities aplenty and the industry needs you!

Working in construction

The construction industry is a vibrant and exciting one and the sky’s the limit as to where it can take you. You could be future qualified scaffolders, plasterers, surveyors, civil engineers, site managers, etc.

If you want to go out and earn good money then you should certainly consider pursuing a career in the construction industry; for example, a full-time qualified shuttering operative (*Formwork qualification) can earn more than a junior solicitor. Put real time and effort in and you will get what you want.

Many people do not appreciate the variety of job roles available and therefore they miss out on opportunities. My mission is to open up career choices based on solid information, to create an understanding of what apprenticeships and apprenticeship schemes can truly offer.

Jean’s top tips

For anyone contemplating and looking to explore apprenticeships here are my top tips to ensure you create the best opportunity for you and maximise your chance of progression.

How to be a successful apprentice

  • A willingness to learn, good attendance and timekeeping and a great attitude is what most employers are looking for.
  • When you’ve completed a task, let someone know. If you are sitting around twiddling your thumbs, the company is not making any money and you’ll not learn.
  • Learn about commercialism – how your wages are directly linked to the company’s profitability.
  • Understand that nothing you want to do is unreachable; in work you will get taught a skill and with that you can make yourself a future.

Advice for employers on apprenticeships

  • There has never been a better time than now to employ an apprentice.
  • Develop a motivated, skilled and qualified workforce – the enthusiasm they bring is unmeasurable.
  • 89 per cent of employers say hiring an apprentice helped their business improve the quality of its product of service.
  • By conducting a high-level review of your businesses skills requirements and undertaking an analysis of the training needs of each business area, you can ensure you are ready to offer a robust scheme.
  • Aim to get your whole workforce involved in the apprenticeship programme. The more mentors/champions you have within your organisation, the more successful it will be.
  • An investment in a solid and lengthy induction will grow confidence faster and both parties will gain a better understanding of abilities.
  • Regular review and appraisals are vital, and keep the apprentices on track.

Apprentices are for the future of businesses and UK industries as a whole.

About Jean

Jean Duprez MBE has worked in the construction industry for the past 25 years. For the last six years, one of her key focuses has been on training and apprenticeships. She helped to set up and run the K&M Apprentice School, which opened in October 2010, and was also pivotal in the creation of K&M McLoughlin Training. This opened in November 2012 and was one of the first five-week, pre-apprenticeship ‘boot camps’  – designed to give unemployed youngsters work experience while instilling in them basic work ethics. In October 2015, Jean formed Duprez Consulting Ltd, a company committed to making apprenticeships count.

Jean sits on both the CIOB London Board for Employer Engagement and their Policy Board. She is active on the City of London’s Social Value Consultation Panel, represents GTA England and is an ambassador for the London Chamber of Commerce. She also acts as a construction ambassador for CITB and the National Apprenticeship Service, promoting apprenticeships in various sectors.

Jean is passionate about her work in raising awareness with women both in recruitment – and more importantly retention – within the construction industry and supports the organisation Women into Construction (WIC) in order to achieve their aims. In 2015 she was awarded an MBE for her services to skills and training.

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