Blog: Counting my blessings for my career in construction
Assistant quantity surveyor Ashley Dunsmore on being a woman in construction and being on Kier’s graduate trainee programme.
I had absolutely no clue what a quantity surveyor was or did when I was at school. Throughout secondary school it’s fair to say that I wasn’t encouraged to consider a career in construction. At the annual careers fair, construction firms were nowhere to be seen. Instead, a job in the fire service, the police or as a beautician was all that was on offer.
None of these roles spoke to my inner geek. I loved watching the Discovery Channel and the programme ‘Megastructures’. When I was aged 14 and on holiday with my family, I took to haggling at the local markets like a duck to water. My mum said I should think about a career as a quantity surveyor. And so my journey began…..
I ended up doing a four year, full-time quantity surveying degree at Glasgow Caledonian University. Girls were definitely in the minority, representing only ten percent of students on my course.
I did a placement during my third year for a contractor based in Dundee and I was offered a job there when I finished my university course. However, I wanted to keep working towards my professional qualification and when I found out about Kier’s graduate scheme, I knew that was the route I wanted to follow.
I was recruited to Kier’s three year graduate degree programme, along with around 150 other graduates and I’ve already completed two and a half years at Kier.
The whole programme has really helped my career. It’s given me all the tools, mentoring support and experience I need to qualify for membership of the RICS Assessment of Professional Competence, and I hope to get my chartership later this year.
The graduate programme has given me a great mix of practical on-the-job experience, formal learning, first line management skills and professional development. I’ve had a great grounding in the business - spending my time on-site and in the office and I work on a variety of projects to give me a broad base to build my career.
I work at Kier Construction’s Aberdeen office and I’m currently leading an improvement programme at Aberdeen Fire Station north control room. I’ve also been able to see first-hand the major infrastructure projects that Kier is involved in, like the CrossRail project in London, the biggest engineering project in Europe, as well as complex restoration projects like the Aberdeen Music Hall and Glasgow School of Art.
I’ve found that the construction sector offers a wealth of opportunities, with varied and interesting work across the industry and competitive benefits too. As well as typical construction roles, there are a host of architecture, engineering, surveying, project management and planning jobs to name just a few. I’ve always wanted to travel and hope that by working with an international company that has offices in the Middle East, Australia and Hong Kong, I’ll get the chance to do more of that. Kier is also putting me through a leadership programme which will give me another step up on the career ladder.
There is no doubt that the construction industry is facing a skills shortage and the sector certainly suffers from an image problem. We need to see past traditional construction roles and open our minds to the numerous careers available to young people, especially young women.
Kier recently became a member of The WISE Campaign (Women in Science and Engineering) and is working with them to motivate girls and women to study and build careers using science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM). The mission is to get one million more women into the UK STEM workforce and to support them to help attract the next generation of talent.
I’m helping to play my part to encourage young people, especially girls into this fantastic sector. I’m currently working with Kier on a series of careers fairs throughout Scotland to raise the profile of construction and inspire people to consider a role in this hugely rewarding and thriving sector. The next time I ask a young person what they want to be when they grow up, I really hope l hear a few quantity surveyors thrown into the mix!