International Women's Day
To celebrate International Women's Day on 8 March and their theme of "Choose to Challenge", we caught up with five female MidKent College students who are choosing to challenge gender stereotypes in the Construction industry. We asked them why they chose to study and work in this typically male-dominated sector.
The College offers a wide range of Construction programmes from Entry Level Bricklaying up to a Degree in Construction Management with full-time, part-time and apprenticeship options available for many of the programmes.
Part-time HNC in Construction & Built Environment student Kerry-Ann Still combines studying one day per week at College with working for KCC Highways. She told us,
“I got into the trade as civil engineering has always interested me since I was a child. From playing with my uncle’s Tonka toys, building mud walls and roads around the garden (much to my Nan’s annoyance), and now using new and innovative technologies to design and create”. She added, “And to prove it wasn’t a man’s world!”
Hayley Bashford is an apprentice with Ferns Aggregates, studying one day per week at College towards her Level 3 Apprenticeship in Construction & Contracting Operations. Her decision to pursue a career in construction was driven by the high demand in the industry for skilled staff as well as her family’s involvement in the sector. She shares her first experience of the industry here,
“When I was first applying for jobs, most required experience which I didn’t have at the time. So, I took a job as a welfare cleaner on a construction site and worked my way up the ladder from there. Now I am an Apprentice Commercial Admin. The construction industry has so many different directions you can go in and I knew from my first job it was where I was going to stay and worked out from there which job I wanted.”
Santina Iantosca, who is also an apprentice on the Level 3 Construction & Contracting Operations programme, combines working at Studious Construction in Maidstone with studying at the College and on another work-related course. She told us,
“I chose a career in construction because there are so many opportunities available. I am currently working in a building control service and am enjoying it thoroughly. I am attending College doing Construction and the Built Environment one day a week. Working alongside this I am doing a level 6 construction course through work. I am very glad that I chose construction as my career choice as there is always something to learn and I can move onto another career in construction with my knowledge.”
Students who complete our full-time Level 3 Extended Diploma in Construction & The Built Environment often use it as a springboard onto university or a higher apprenticeship.
Sophie Butler joined MidKent College on the full-time Extended Diploma in 2019. She will complete her qualification this year and is looking for a related apprenticeship for when she finishes. Her interest in construction started at school, and the astonishment of her school-friends only made her more determined to build a career in the industry.
“The reason I choose to study and work in construction was because I wanted to get into a career that wasn't like all the others. At the time, many of my classmates were going into accounting or health and social care and of course that's not a bad career choice, however I just never felt that those careers were for me. I was looking for something that was practical and interesting - I would often joke that I'd probably go mad with an office job! This idea of working in a construction environment/setting seemed interesting because it incorporated two of my favourite subjects in school - science and maths. My peers were quite surprised that I had chosen the construction industry to pursue a career in - some found it quite weird also because of my build (I'm very petite at only 5'0 tall), but this only made me want to go further and change the industry which had generally been heavily male-dominated and stereotypically a 'man's job/world' before.”
Robyn Anderson also studies on the full-time Extended Diploma in Construction & Built Environment and has applied to study Architecture at university. She started off on a different career path, but soon found her way back to the subject she had always been drawn to;
“I started off studying Childcare as I didn’t think I had the grades I needed for Construction & Built Environment, but right from when I first started secondary school I had thought about architecture as a career. I remember drawing shapes on my parents' radiator as a child and always had my fingers wrapped round a pencil and from then I realised that architecture was going to be my career goal.”
Their lecturer, Charlotte Brown remembers being "the only female toolmaker in a workshop of forty men" when she first started out in the industry. After working her way up to Lab Manager at a concrete manufacturers, Charlotte completed her HND and started teaching on a sessional basis intially at the College. She said,
"For the last 11 years I have had the complete pleasure of supporting students aiming for a career in a fantastically rewarding sector, teaching Construction & the Built Environment. I would recommend anyone that thrives on new challenges and is looking for a rewarding career to investigate construction. The sector has many challenges but is recognising the valuable part that women have to play."