International Women’s Day 2018

An apprenticeship can be the start of an amazing career

Jennifer Gibson

Integrated Management System (IMS) assistant, Jennifer Gibson, hopes Cruden Buildings and Renewals Ltd’s ‘Pathway to Employment’ programme can take her to the top.

When I left school, like so many other teenagers I had no idea what I wanted to do with the rest of my life. I didn’t have the qualifications to get into university, so I ended up working full time in a shoe shop. I didn’t take long to realise that retail was not the career for me, so it was fortunate that I heard from a family friend about an opportunity to become an apprentice painter. Sick of the sight of feet, I jumped at the chance – and it was the best decision I could have made.

My apprenticeship was with Cruden Building & Renewals Ltd, and I soon found that I loved honing my new painting skills while working out on site. Everyone was really welcoming and supportive, and although as a girl I was definitely in the minority, I can honestly say I was never treated any differently because I was female.

During the final year of my four-year apprenticeship, Cruden offered me the chance to go to college to do an HND in Construction Management. This is part of their ‘Pathway to Employment’ programme which is design to nurture and grow talent from within the organisation. They supported me throughout my studies, allowing me two and a half days off work every week to attend, and also by paying for the course. When I gained my HND and Cruden then offered to put me through university, I was delighted. I’ve always been conscious about the environment so I chose to do a degree in Environmental Management.

“My hopes for the future are to eventually progress into the role of Environmental Manager.”

Jennifer Gibson

Although it was a four year course, my HND qualification allowed me to fast track straight into second year. Again, Cruden let me attend my university course at Glasgow Caledonian University for half the week, while working with them for the other half. I was very proud to graduate with a BSc Honours degree last year.

The tremendous support I have been given by Cruden is testament to how much the company believes in developing its employees. The Cruden Academy is a continuous programme of investment in employees which includes their full modern apprenticeship programme, lifelong learning, training and distance support as well as further education support. Around 300 people work here, including joiners, bricklayers, plumbers, painters and labourers. Many have been here for a long time and have moved up the career ladder successfully. There’s no doubt there is a skills shortage throughout the construction industry, and by focusing on recruiting, retaining and investing in their employees, Cruden is very cleverly making sure they have a pipeline of talented and skilled employees who are loyal to them.  In recognition of this, Cruden has been awarded Investor in People Silver Standard and Investors in Young People Gold Standard and their modern apprenticeship programme has reached 70 apprentices at the moment, so it’s a win-win situation for everyone.

I now work in the Integrated Management System department where I am involved with various matters concerning the environment, quality control and health and safety. Although I’m mostly office based, I visit sites to carry out carbon footprint reports, waste reports and recycling reports which I provide to senior management. I look at the volume of emissions that the company produces, including staff commuting to and from work, how much energy and water we use, and how we recycle our waste. I feel very lucky that I’m getting the chance to help the environment and help the company work smarter at the same time.

My hopes for the future are to eventually progress into the role of Environmental Manager.

At school I didn’t consider a career in construction at all, and only got into the industry by good luck. If we want to address the skills shortage, I think it’s important that companies get the message out more widely about the exciting roles that are available in this sector, especially to girls, and at an early age.

I think it’s also vital for young people to realise that if they don’t get into university or college straight from school, it doesn’t mean that they can’t build a successful career. For me, an apprenticeship was the right path and I feel incredibly lucky that I’ve been given these opportunities. There is no way that I would have been able to support myself through college and university on my own. Without my apprenticeship at Cruden, I might still be stuck in that shoe shop!

Catch up with the rest of Scottish Construction Now’s International Women’s Day feature here.

Succeeding in the male dominating world of property and construction

Adriana Bucur

Adriana Bucur’s move from retail fashion to construction recruitment at BBR has introduced a fresh perspective to a male dominated industry.

Adriana Bucur attended Glasgow Caledonian University where she graduated with a degree in International Fashion Branding. She initially opted for a career within the fashion retail sector, working in management roles for a number of leading fashion retailers. After notching up some in depth experience, which included two years of retail recruiting, she opted for a new challenge which would see her working in two completely new sectors, one of which was almost exclusively male-dominated.

In August 2017 she joined BBR Services, specialists in residential property and construction recruitment, taking on a newly created role as a consultant to help the company service its growing UK-wide client base. Her day to day focus is on finding quality candidates to take on key positions for BBR’s roster of award-winning national and regional housebuilder companies across the UK.

“Moving from the retail fashion sector, where there is a high proportion of women, into this new position has represented a marked change of direction in my career,” says Adriana, “and I am certainly enjoying the challenges and opportunities that come from this new experience. There’s a lot of variety in what I do. A typical day involves business development where I follow up on leads, go through job applications and shortlist candidates I’ve interviewed. The regular face to face interaction with both the clients and candidates is my favourite part of the job.

“I’ve always considered myself a good judge of character so that has come in very handy, whether you are dealing with men or women.”

Adriana Bucur

“While many of the current managers, directors and job seekers ​I ​work​ with ​in the residential property sales sector are women, the construction side of the business is predominantly male. As a female working within this sector, I’m finding the experience extremely positive and have enjoyed working with a diverse range of both clients and candidates.”

Being able to read people is a key asset in her role, according to Adriana. “I’ve always considered myself a good judge of character so that has come in very handy, whether you are dealing with men or women. I frequently find myself giving advice from personal experiences which can help build trust between myself and candidates.”

Working across a client base made up of major national and international companies, Adriana typically deals with highly experienced professionals. She has had to quickly get to know a wide range of contacts, gaining a strong understanding of their business and culture in the process. Her role in helping BBR Services develop its business outside Scotland to other parts of the UK is also one she is particularly proud of. “One of my biggest achievements to date was picking up a new role for a client in Newcastle within the first two weeks of starting,” she said. “I’m also pleased to have helped place an increasing number of women into construction sector roles.”

“At the end of the day, the mechanics of the job are similar to other roles I’ve had. The focus is all about providing the best possible service and if you do that your efforts are appreciated, regardless of your gender. For clients that means understanding their business to ensure we put forward potential recruits who will be an ideal fit for a role and helping them improve their recruitment process. For candidates it’s all about giving them as much good advice as possible, guiding them through the application process, helping improve their​interview skills and building​ confidence. This can even extend offering style​ tips on what they ​should ​wear​ for an ​interview.

“Being a woman in this role, particularly for the work I do with clients and candidates in the construction sector, has not presented any barriers to me. If anything it creates opportunities as we can bring a new perspective and fresh ideas to what is currently a male dominated industry.

“As we recognise and celebrate International Women’s Day, I hope my own positive experience in recruitment demonstrates that certain barriers are becoming resigned to history with women making an increasingly important contribution in the business world, across a diverse range of industries.”

Catch up with the rest of Scottish Construction Now’s International Women’s Day feature here.

Q&A with Nicola Murray, senior lecturer in plumbing and gas at Glasgow Clyde College

Nicola Murray

Glasgow Clyde College senior lecturer in plumbing and gas, Nicola Murray, has her say about the construction industry and the challenges she has faced.

Having started her apprenticeship with Glasgow City Council in 1995, Nicola Murray served time as a Plumber with Gas Qualifications by 1999 before working on a Plumbing/Gas Maintenance contract in Glasgow for four years.

She moved on to Queenslie Training Centre as trainer for a year and was seconded to Trolhurst Training then to British Gas for another year then started at Cardonald College in 2005 as a Plumbing/Gas Lecturer. From there she was promoted to Senior Lecturer of Water which then expanded to Gas and Electrical Commercial work where she aspires to move further up the ladder.

In her role at the college Nicola works closely with many stakeholders but in particular she worked with Scottish Water on a schools project called Engineering Challenge, where groups of school children from various schools attended the college and met with companies from industry like George Leslie and were mentored to produce something in relation to renewables that made Scottish Water more environmentally friendly.

Do you think more should be done to encourage women into construction and why/how has Glasgow Clyde College helped them so far?

I think changes in many areas over the years have made it more accessible for woman, for example different martials in the plumbing industry (cast iron baths widely replaced by fibre glass baths) made it easier for removal and installations. As a college we actively encourage woman in industry and recently teamed up with Hub West Scotland in partnership with BAM Construction to assist in the delivery of an introductory employability programme, Ready Steady Girls Construct! During the programme, 12 girls got industry talks/awareness sessions, practical demonstrations on site, site visits, SVQ Level 1 qualification, employability skills and a few days of real life work experience placements

What particular challenges have you faced in the sector and were you ever discouraged from continuing?

Being a female starting out in a very male dominated industry I faced many challenges; acceptance, competence expectations, negativity and many more but in all of that I met lots of great people who have mentored me and supported me throughout my experiences and encouraged me to continue.  I will not say that I never thought of quitting certainly in the first ten years but as time goes on and different generations allow for progression it easier now than it’s ever been for a female to build an excellent career in construction.

Is it important to you that by working at a college you can be part of many student’s first experiences of construction?

It is very important to me that I am part of a student’s first experience of the construction industry as we have the ability to change people’s life’s and support them into an area where the opportunities are not limited, there are so many pathways available that no matter the route you will find where you are best suited in industry.

Do more women see construction as a viable career option?

I’m not sure if I know the answer to this question, I would like to think so but I don’t know that I have ever met a female who said when I grow up I want to go into construction however that said I know plenty of females in industry who love their job and have good careers.

Glasgow Clyde College collective overview

(from left) Morag Robertson, head of curriculum computing; Nikki Murray, senior lecturer in plumbing and gas; Michelle McGuire lecturer in horticulture and Allison Anderson, mechanical lecturer

There is quite a large female presence within the lecturing staff at Glasgow Clyde College including Morag Robertson, head of curriculum for computing, Alison Anderson and Julie Stevenson lecturers in Engineering and Julie Kilpatrick and Michelle McGuire are both lecturers in horticulture.

Glasgow Clyde College has been working with its partners for a number of years to encourage females into STEM subjects. The College cannot influence young people’s choices alone. It is by working with multiple partners such as industry, schools and the Higher Education sector that can help influence young people’s choices. By working with these sectors Glasgow Clyde College can influence the influencers such as parents and peers about the exciting careers young people can undertake.

Technologies in both Construction and Engineering are changing at a pace which requires people to have a wider skillset, which STEM permits. Many of the lines between each subject are being eroded as technologies influence both the Construction and Engineering sectors.

The future economy needs a highly numerate, digitally skilled, capable workforce, particularly numeracy and digital skills which are becoming fundamental across the labour market. The careers and occupations that rely on STEM are diverse and range from computing, engineering, life sciences, design, and creative arts to construction.

SMARTSTEM

Glasgow Clyde College’s successful STEM event organised in partnership with SMARTSTEM. This event brought together college staff, schools and businesses to deliver STEM activities to young people whilst linking it with business and the interesting careers young people can go onto realise.

This type of event is designed to engage those who may not have considered a career within a STEM subject. STEM and the gender imbalance are sector issues that the Scottish Government have asked Colleges to help address, in running this type of event assists in changing people’s perceptions about STEM and the exciting careers individuals can undertake.

The feedback from both staff and students that attended on the day was extremely positive with a noticeable buzz about the place, including on social media with many of the organisations represented on the day commenting on how well the event went.

Around 200 pupils from 22 primary schools attended the day with 12 employer partnership on show hosting 4 workshops (SERIC, LENOVO, NAVY and THINK TANK) and 8 stands.

25 college staff were involved in demonstrations and STEM activities and a further 35 students volunteered to help out on the day.

Catch up with the rest of Scottish Construction Now’s International Women’s Day feature here.

Q&A with Arvill Plant & Tool Hire commercial director, Hayley Shevill

(from left) Richard Crowther, Kier Construction; Gordon Hunter, hub South West; Hayley Shevill and Amy Monaghan (Hayley’s sister) from Arvill Plant & Tool Hire at hub South West Building for Growth programme graduation ceremony

Former primary school teacher Hayley Shevill on life as a commercial director in the family business at Arvill Plant & Tool Hire.

I completed a 4 year Bachelor of Education degree at Glasgow University in order to work as a primary school teacher. I did that for 4 years before joining the family business.

I loved teaching but found the real fire in my belly after working for my dad during my summer holidays as the field sales rep for the company. I decided to make the leap in 2014 when I chose to leave the teaching profession and become a full-time member of the Arvill team. I worked for 2 years as the field sales rep, where I fought for new business opportunities whilst familiarising myself with the construction industry and was appointed for the position of commercial director at the end of 2016.

Highlight the biggest projects you have been involved in

I was hugely proud of winning awards for being the ‘Most Passionate Hirer’ in Scotland in 2015 by the HAE (Hire Association Of Europe) and becoming a finalist for ‘Lanarkshire’s Best Family Business’ in January 2018.

Also, for being wholly responsible for winning business and becoming a supplier to major contractors such as family owned civil engineers I & H Brown, UK and Ireland-wide builders and civil engineers Farrans Ltd, one of the largest privately owned civil engineering firms – Barhale Ltd, and blue chip companies such as Morrison’s Construction and Malcolm’s Construction.

Where would you like to be in future?

I hope to be at the forefront of the business, alongside my sister, with a real focus on developing our team as we continue to grow our business and with a vision of opening up future depots across the U.K. It’s a family business, and our aim has always been to be the UK’s premier plant hire company, providing an incomparable, reliable and competitive service; always with a smile.

What are your thoughts on your sector in terms of the number of females working in general and in higher positions?

I think there is a real lack of females within the construction industry, particularly at higher levels, and even more so when it comes to the boardroom. Personally, I would have had no interest in getting involved in this industry if it hadn’t been for our own family business and the opportunities and experience that my connections provided me with from a very young age.

I think there should be a stronger emphasis within schools to encourage both girls and boys to gain work experience within the sector; in order to showcase the benefits and scope for success within the industry. It’s important that everyone gets to see what they can achieve in construction, not just those who have a family connection.

Could more be done to encourage women into construction?

Definitely. We all have our own part to play in making the Construction Industry a more attractive and accessible sector for young women. Schools and local businesses within the industry could get together to arrange career talks within schools or day-trips to sites and depots in order for young people to gain experience and become familiar with machinery and plant & tool hire.

I think big corporations could also do more in terms of how they encourage young people, particularly young women into the construction industry, as well as look at the ratios of men to women in their own hierarchies.

What has Arvill Plant & Tool Hire done to facilitate this?

We have actively sought after young people (particularly young women) through the ‘Forward Training’ programme funded by North Lanarkshire and in 2013 we put a young woman through the apprenticeship programme, who continues to work with us to this day.

She has garnered experience in various roles within the company such as administration, invoicing, Health & Safety training and is now currently front of house at the hire desk, dealing with customers and suppliers on a daily basis. As former school teachers, my sister and I also try to do as much as we can in terms of reaching out to schools during career weeks to offer our services and a chance to engage with children at every age and stage to make them aware of the opportunities within our industry.

Catch up with the rest of Scottish Construction Now’s International Women’s Day feature here.

Q&A with Carla Walker, associate building surveyor at DM Hall

Carla Walker

Associate building surveyor at DM Hall, Carla Walker, takes pleasure from surprising those who still think surveying is a ‘man’s job’.

After leaving school I studied Bioscience at The Robert Gordon University. It wasn’t for me. However, after buying my first flat I became interested in property, and as a result, a degree in building surveying followed. Since then I have never looked back.

I have worked for FG Burnett, Shepherd, and Aberdeenshire Council before joining DM Hall. Through my experience I have built up a good understanding of the commercial property market in the North East. 90% of our work is commercial, but we still carry out the occasional residential building survey to report on defects, for example. My geographical area covers Aberdeenshire, Moray, Inverness shire and the Western Isles – so an enormous area.

Highlight the biggest projects you have been involved in

The interesting aspect of building surveying is that there are so many areas in which one can specialise. Working in both the private and public sectors I have gained a wide experience of the different roles a building surveyor can undertake. From being involved in the refurbishment of a Grade a Listed building at Aden Country Park, in Aberdeenshire to demolition works. I have also been involved in the specification and building of tennis court and MUGA facilities and also creating disabled changing facilities in schools. So there are so many avenues building surveying covers out with the day to day roles involving dilapidations, condition surveys and insurance work.

Where would you like to be in future?

I want to work my way up to partner level and to help build DM Hall’s presence in the north east as best I can. I’m based in Aberdeen, and I’m looking to stay here for the foreseeable future.

The firm has no formal quotas or policies on advancement for women, but I’ve seen no glass ceiling while I’ve been here. I think that if I get my head down and work hard I have the same chance as everyone else.

What are your thoughts on your sector in terms of the number of females working in general and in higher positions?

There are not many women in the surveying profession. My firm has only two women in senior positions, and I think that is reflective, or maybe a little better, than the industry as a whole. Our professional body, the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) is a good example of the disparity, with currently 13% of its membership being women.

RICS elected its first female president in 2014. The second was elected in 2016, which is a step in the right direction. There are more women than ever applying for jobs in surveying, or studying surveying at university, and the RICS is actively promoting surveying as a profession in schools and through social media to influence career choices.

Attitudes are definitely changing, though. At a recent surveying job at a church, I was met by one of the lady church elders, who had been expecting a male surveyor, because she had assumed it was a “man’s job”. I think I gave her a pleasant surprise.

Could more be done to encourage women into construction?

In my office in Aberdeen, I think the ratio of women to men is around fifty/fifty, at least in the commercial department. I think, at least on the employer side, enough is being done. DM Hall is very flexible, when it comes to working around childcare and making it easy for women to balance careers and children. I’m hesitant about the idea of quotas and I think more can be done to get young women into universities and onto courses like Building Surveying, into offices as professional trainees and through onto the Assessment of Professional Competence (APC).

What is the situation at DM Hall as a whole?

Our most recent intake of professional trainees had five women out of 15 trainees, so 1/3 female/ male ratio which is better than previously, but still a way away from parity. DM Hall has no set quotas and the same interview process, regardless of gender. We hire the best fit for the job.

We need more women to populate the pool of potential candidates. They are good enough not just to succeed, but to excel. For instance, 2016’s RICS Young Building Surveyor of the Year was a woman.  I’d advise any young woman looking at her university options to take a look at surveying. It’s a brilliant career.

Catch up with the rest of Scottish Construction Now’s International Women’s Day feature here.

Q&A with electrician Susan Curatolo from NAC Electrics

Susan Curatolo

NAC Electrics’ Susan Curatolo says there are no barriers to being a woman electrician, though she has only come across two other females in the industry.

I left school to work with horses, and had always wanted to be a riding instructor. I got as far as my British Horse Society Stage 1, but needed something that paid a bit better, so I ended up working in quarries, on the weighbridges for companies like Tinto Sand & Gravel, Tilcon Ltd and then Tarmac.

Then I worked in the careers office for South Lanarkshire Council and left to go travelling to Israel where I lived on a Kibbutz for a year. On my return, in 1998, I trained as an electrician, and found my calling at the late age of 23. I’ve been an electrician with NAC ever since, but I never lost my love of horses.

Highlight the biggest projects you have been involved in

I worked on the office refurbishment for McLellands Cheese Factory. I also worked on the 1999 new installation for Norfolkline refrigerated transport, Larkhall where we installed chills and offices.  Later, when new freezers were required, I returned to Larkhall and then again in 2015 to expanded the refrigerated areas and office building.

I was the first electrician on site installing temporary lighting for the Edinburgh International Climbing Arena in Ratho, which is Europe’s largest indoor climbing arena, and built in a disused quarry. I then returned to install all the electrics for the place. That was one of the physically biggest projects I ever worked on. I have also done electrical work for numerous new build housing projects.

Where would you like to be in future?

I would like to go through my training to become an Approved Electrician in the future. It’s good to know that I haven’t got any restrictions on the training. There aren’t any barriers to being a woman electrician; I just need to find the time and money to sit the next trade test.

What are your thoughts on your sector in terms of the number of females working in general and in higher positions?

I have only come across two other females in the industry. One was an electrician and the other an Electrical Engineer. It would be nice to see more females going into the industry. I am only five foot three and small-built but can give anyone a run for their money, work wise. There aren’t many things I can’t do and those that are tricky I will give a very good try.

I have been in the industry for nearly 20 years now and I love my job. I love being able to fix things and do a neat, tidy and safe job. Total job satisfaction. 

Could more be done to encourage women into construction?

I must say that in my 20 years I have only come across one man who was sexist which was very disappointing as it wasn’t that long ago. Generally, I have been shown nothing but respect on the building sites I have worked on. Usually, I’ve been the person that they all come to when they need a fresh perspective on a problem, be it electrical or not.

The thing I love about this job is you are learning all the time. There’s no such thing as serving your time and knowing it all. Every day there are new things to learn. It is hard work so I like to keep myself fit and strong, since it makes it much easier and when you get used to it, it’s just like any other job.

I think we need to get female electrician to go out to Primary and Secondary Schools and speak to the pupils, to show girls that they can do the job just as well as the boys. Probably better as us women are known to be neat, tidy and organised! There are also good opportunities for older females to go into the industry, as I did. I didn’t start training until I was 23 years old, and did the adult training course via home learning with training on the job. This worked wonders, because I was learning everyday and putting all the written theory into practice.

I also had six great electricians to learn from, each of whom had their own ways of doing things. I learnt as much as I could from them all; then developed my own unique way of doing things.

What has your NAC Electrics done to facilitate this?

The electrical industry has an imbalance between men and women at all levels. Most sites I’ve been on, I’ve been the only woman with tools in her hand, and I’d want to see more companies hire more women, but if women don’t apply and don’t realise that a career in construction is available for them as well, then the companies can’t hire them. I’d love to see women electricians at every careers day at every school in the country, though.

Catch up with the rest of Scottish Construction Now’s International Women’s Day feature here.

Q&A with Anna Chambers, account director at Perceptive Communicators

Anna Chambers

After studying architecture, Anna Chambers saw a different route into construction with Perceptive Communicators, a firm with extensive experience of raising the profile of clients in the industry.

Tell me a bit about your career, and how you got to be where you are today?

When I was at school I didn’t have a clear idea what I wanted to do next – it was a straight toss-up between studying English or architecture – so I applied for both. When I got accepted into the Mackintosh School of Architecture, I was so delighted with the idea of going to Glasgow School of Art that I decided to take the architecture path.

Around halfway through my degree, I realised this wasn’t the career for me – unfortunately my fascination with buildings did not translate into a talent for designing them, and I struggled with what was an extremely demanding course – think survival of the fittest! However, I completed my degree and went on to work in an architect’s office for a year, while reconsidering my options.

I then went back to university to complete a postgraduate diploma in broadcast journalism. I was very lucky that a communications job came up immediately afterwards at the RIAS, and because of my background in architecture, they took a chance on a graduate with no communications experience. This was the first step into a career where I have been lucky enough to combine my love of writing with my passion for buildings.

A year later I got the job of assistant editor at the architecture magazine Prospect, which was a wonderful role that involved visiting and reviewing some of the most fascinating buildings, including being one of the first to see the inside of the new Scottish Parliament. Later on I went back to the architecture firm where I had previously worked, taking on a PR and marketing role across their five offices. I then spent some time within corporate communications at two local authorities where, amongst other things, I edited a magazine for council housing tenants.

Three years ago I joined a PR agency called Perceptive Communicators which specialises in construction, amongst other things. I now handle all aspects of communication for many construction clients, such as Henry Boot Developments on the new Aberdeen Exhibition and Conference Centre, AS Homes and Construction Scotland Innovation Centre. Having a background in construction has been an obvious advantage, and I am very lucky to have been able to put both sides of my education and knowledge to good use throughout my career.

Have you faced any issues being a woman in construction?

When I read some accounts from other women in the industry, I think I must have been lucky as I have never experienced any issues at all. Perhaps it was a subconscious effect of growing up in the 1980s when the prime minister was a woman, but it never occurred to me that there was anything I could not do because I was a girl. Working in a predominantly male environment was never something that bothered me and I have very fond and positive memories of my time working in an architectural practice. However, this was before I had my children. There does seem to be a long-hours culture in architecture which perhaps does not lend itself well to being a working parent. As research shows that mothers still tend to take on the vast majority of caring responsibilities, perhaps this might go some way to explaining why so many women drop out of architecture.

Should more be done to encourage women into construction?

There is a skills shortage in construction just now, and also a huge gender imbalance. Perhaps if we could address the latter, we could help remedy the former. The difficulty lies in how we do this. Even areas of the sector such as architecture, which are managing to attract women in the first place (the gender split is fairly even in undergraduate architecture courses), are unfortunately losing them along the way. It’s unfortunate that so many talented people are taking their skills and training into other sectors.

A recent survey by design website Dezeen, of the 100 biggest architecture firms from around the world, revealed that only one in 10 senior positions are occupied by women. I think one of the main reasons for this is not so much a construction industry issue as a society-wide problem – men need to take on their fair share of childcare duties, such as accepting the shared parental leave that is now on offer to them, and should be encouraged to do so by both their employers and society. Until there is as much chance of a man being off work for a few months after the birth of their child as a woman, or of a dad rather than a mum leaving the office at 5pm to pick up the kids, then the gender imbalance in senior positions will unfortunately continue.

My current company is a fantastic example of how work-life balance can be done – our managing director and the longest-serving member of our team are both women with school age children, and thanks to flexible and remote working, they have managed to very successfully combine senior roles with raising a family.

Some of our construction clients are also doing some really great things in terms of encouraging a better gender balance, such as offering shared parental leave, flexible hours, working from home, childcare vouchers, leadership and graduate programmes and skills academies.

What career achievement are you most proud of?

As a young rookie journalist at Prospect in 2004, I got sent at short notice to Paris to interview a famous Japanese architect named Shigeru Ban, because my editor could no longer make it. In the architecture world, he is a pretty big deal, so I was both star-struck and terrified, especially as I was interviewing him via a translator. I will always remember him thanking me for being ‘one of the few journalists who had really done their homework’. This made me feel I could do a really good job even when I felt like a fish out of water, and that gave me confidence. From then on I’ve tried to always be well prepared, especially when taking on something new or a little bit scary.

Since then I can’t really pinpoint one achievement in particular, but nothing beats the feeling of getting great news coverage for a client. It never gets old!

Catch up with the rest of Scottish Construction Now’s International Women’s Day feature here.

Profile: Michelle Motion, financial director, Springfield Properties

Michelle Motion

Hard work, education and a dependable support network are just some of the factors which have enabled Michelle Motion to become financial director at Springfield Properties.

Career timeline

June 1991 – May 2001 – Morrison Construction Group

I spent ten years with Morrison Construction starting as an Assistant Accountant and finishing as a Finance Manager.

May 2001 – November 2013 – Gladedale (Now Avant Homes)

I joined in 2001 as a Financial Controller leaving 12 years later as a Divisional Finance Director.

November 2013 – Present – Springfield Properties PLC

The next step in my career brought me to Springfield Properties, where I was appointed as Finance Director in 2013. Today, I am one of just five female executive Directors of a listed company in Scotland.

Projects completed in the past

The past five years at Springfield have been some of the best of my career, and I have been fortunate to have had the opportunity to lead on some incredibly exciting projects.

In May 2017, we achieved record turnover of £110m – a phenomenal accomplishment for the business. This was followed by the construction start and sales launch of a 3,000 home village in Perth. Bertha Park just off the Inveralmond Roundabout, will be complete with all the facilities a community needs to thrive, including private and affordable homes, commercial units, health care facilities and schools.

Both these projects took place in the weeks leading up to listing Springfield on the London Stock Exchange with the Alternative Investment Market (AIM.) After sharing the Springfield story with investors in London and Edinburgh, a whirlwind of numbers, late night emails and lots of caffeine, the hard work paid off, and on 16 October, Springfield made its initial public offering on AIM, with the placement of 23.5 million shares.

Visiting the stock exchange was certainly a tick off the bucket list. I had my family by my side with Springfield’s name in lights alongside a countdown to the market opening – it was a real celebration for such a significant accomplishment.

Upcoming projects

A main focus for the business will be to progress our Village developments, which include Bertha Park (Perth) Durieshill (Stirling) Elgin South and Dykes of Gray (Dundee) where sales are already ahead of target. Comprising both affordable and private housing, these villages will become home to thousands of people across Scotland in the coming years.

The first annual results as a listed company is going to be another key milestone for us as a business, and on a smaller scale, I’ll be looking to grow and develop my own team. I am currently directly responsible for 16 employees in accounts and four in IT and as the company grows there will be a need to expand both departments.

How have your employers helped your career?

Throughout my career I have been fortunate to work with people I respect and could learn from. Sandy Adam, chairman of Springfield, is an incredible entrepreneur, who has created an environment staff not only enjoy working in but can successfully develop their careers.

There are lots of opportunities for people to progress and Springfield invests heavily in training programmes. Encouraging the development of staff and mentoring them from entry level onwards is central to the company’s strategy.

Of the 500+ Springfield employees, 95 are apprentices with an additional 17 in further education.

Having an MBA has been fundamental to my move up the career ladder, and it’s great to see Springfield supporting the future of the business by giving staff the same opportunities.

What barriers have you faced?

In order to succeed, you need to strive to be the best, and this often involves setting the time aside for hard work and continuing in education.

This, as a woman, can be harder to do alongside taking time to start a family, but in many ways I attribute a lot of my success to them. I have two fantastic children and I’m married to the most understanding man. My family are my rock and they are the biggest support network – that’s why it meant so much having them celebrate the achievement of the float with me at the London Stock Exchange in October.

Rising to the top

In my later years at school I wanted to be an accountant and I was lucky enough to find a profession I love within an industry that excited me.

Through determination, hard work and the support of my colleagues, I am now a PLC Finance Director of a publicly listed company, at possibly one of the most exciting stages in the history of the business.

My advice to any young person is to find a career that you enjoy and don’t let anything hold you back – including yourself.

Catch up with the rest of Scottish Construction Now’s International Women’s Day feature here.

Ready Steady Girls Construct

BAM Construction and hub West Scotland have launched a new skills programme with pupils from Lourdes Secondary in Glasgow’s south-side.

With support from the Developing Young Workforce Glasgow Opportunity Fund, staff from BAM will deliver a ten week programme encouraging S3 female pupils to consider the construction industry as a career. Each session, which will take up a full day, will include industry talks, practical demonstrations on site, visits to live projects, presentations on employability skills and work experience placements. At the end of the programme the pupils will be awarded an SVQ Level 1 qualification.

Claire Anderson, programme manager for BAM Construction, said: “We have twelve enthusiastic pupils signed up for the programme which is really encouraging. The programme will enable us to provide a far more detailed insight into the variety of jobs and career pathways available than our usual taster days.  Our team are really looking forward to it.”

Lisa Blain from Lourdes Secondary added: “The Ready, Steady, Girls, Construct! programme has been really valuable and has helped our pupils to understand and appreciate the wide variety of employability opportunities within construction.

“The diversity of the programme has meant that each pupil has had the opportunity to experience a work placement within construction, participate in college taster sessions, and engage in workshops with numerous professionals, as well as undertaking a construction qualification. It has been a fantastic chance to engage our young people in the wider world of construction and allow them to fully understand the opportunities that exist for them.”

Gender diversity remains an ongoing challenge for the UK construction industry with females representing around 14% of the workforce.

BAM is actively engaged in creating a more balanced workforce through a number of UK schools and careers projects. www.bam.co.uk.

Catch up with the rest of Scottish Construction Now’s International Women’s Day feature here.

Q&A with Fiona Harper, SELECT head of employment affairs & secretary of the SJIB

Fiona Harper

Fiona Harper from SELECT, the trade association for electricians in Scotland, on how she faced up to her detractors who believed the construction industry was not the place for a woman.

My first job after university was with a bank in their debt collection department.  It wasn’t for me. After a lot of applications I got a job by chance with Babcock Construction Ltd as an Industrial Relations Officer.

My dad worked for Babcocks and his secretary was typing my CV, when it was left on a photocopier by mistake. It was found and passed to the Personnel Director who happened to be looking for an Industrial Relations Officer for Torness Power Station.

From there I went to Diamond Power Specialty Ltd (a sister company of Babcock International) as their Personnel Manager.

Then to the National Joint Council for the Engineering Construction Industry, initially as a Field Officer, then Head of Field Operations and laterally as Assistant Director. I moved from the NJC to SELECT in 2006 as Head of Employment Affairs and The Secretary of the SJIB.

Highlight the biggest projects you have been involved in

My first job in engineering construction was based at Torness Power Station whilst it was being built. There I dealt with industrial relations issues and Trade Union shop stewards.

After that – when I was with the NJC – I dealt with industrial relations issues at a regional and national level – again working with contractors and trade unions officers. I was involved with many projects throughout the UK including BP (now INEOS) Grangemouth, Sellafield, Sizewell B Power Station, projects for TOTAL, Mobil Oil, Shell at St Fergus near Peterhead and many more.

Where would you like to be in future?

My job at SELECT has grown with me. When I arrived, and as my job title indicates, I was employed to manage and deliver Employment Affairs on behalf of SELECT as well as run the SJIB (a partnership of employers with unite the union). Now I do that as well as internal Human Resources for SELECT and recently I was given responsibility for leading Strategic Skills & Qualifications portfolio for the electrotechnical sector in Scotland.

I am 58 and have had a fantastically interesting career. I have met a whole host of wonderful, interesting and passionate people along the way. I feel there is more I can do, and more I can offer. Of course, I would like recognition and promotion but, there is plenty to achieve with SELECT and it will take a while to get it right and I like to get things right.

What are your thoughts on your sector in terms of the number of females working in general and in higher positions?

The number of women in electrical contracting could and should be better.  It has improved since I first started but there is a long way to go.  There are many wives and partners who support their male partners in their business – they are in senior positions, but it is all taken for granted.  What’s more, there is no reason why they couldn’t also be the electrician?  In this day and age, there should be no barriers.

Could more be done to encourage women into construction?

Yes. The culture needs to change. Construction is a tough gig but there are as many strong (tough) women out there as men. We should live in a meritocracy. We need to open people’s minds and show them how exciting and creative the construction industry is.

We need to improve the image of construction and make it attractive to young girls, their families and their teachers. We need to get young people thinking about exciting, varied opportunities rather than hard hats and high-vis jackets. Women need flexible working packages so that they can blend their work life with their home life.

What has your employer and / or previous employers done to facilitate this?

From the very start of my career, I have had my detractors. There were people who I didn’t even know, yet had views on my ability to do my job. All of them believed the construction industry was not the place for a woman. However, each and every one of my employers has had faith in me and has given me the chance to prove my worth. I don’t think I have let any of them down and, because of that, I have either been recommended or head hunted for all of my positions since joining Babcocks.

Catch up with the rest of Scottish Construction Now’s International Women’s Day feature here.