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WLC Celebrate International Women’s Day With Women into Construction

A Construction and Green Skills Jobs and Training Recruitment Fair to recruit more women into these sectors took place at The Drum in Brent Civic Centre on International Women’s Day last week. Situated just a few metres from the iconic Wembley Stadium, over a hundred women attended the bustling fair to network with key industry professionals, discuss training options with FE colleges and providers, attend industry-led workshops and hear from engaging and inspirational speakers. This year’s theme for International Women’s Day was ‘Invest in Women: Accelerate Progress’ which is a clarion call to address gender diversity and inclusion in construction, a traditionally male-dominated industry. The unique event was co-organised by Women into Construction, the West London Green Skills Hub and West London College.

According to the UK’s Construction Industry Training Board (CITB), women currently represent around 14% of the total construction workforce in the UK. This figure has been gradually increasing over the years but still indicates a significant gender disparity within the industry.

Within skilled trades such as carpentry, plumbing and electrical work, women are even less well represented. According to data from the UK Government’s Office for National Statistics (ONS), as of 2020, women accounted for only around 3% of skilled trades occupations in construction.

Women into Construction (WiC) was founded in 2012 to help women achieve careers in construction and to support their progression within the sector. WiC runs many recruitment initiatives such as training courses, mentoring, and addressing workplace culture and barriers to entry for women.

Karima Khandker, Director of Resourcing, Skills and Equity, Diversity and Inclusion at Thames Water chaired the event. She was proud to announce that 34% of the workforce at Thames Water are women but recognises the huge skills shortage within the industry and that by investing in women, we can work to overcome this. Karima says: “Employers have a responsibility to remove barriers too.”

Karima Khandker

Anna Walterskotter, a WiC project manager, started work as an apprentice plumber with Peabody Housing Association in the nineties. Anna spent sixteen years ‘on the tools.’ She moved into teaching and became Head of Construction and Engineering at Hackney College, before taking up her position with WiC.

Anna Walterskotter

Kimberley McGinty, Social Value Manager with Wates Group began her construction career as a hod-carrier and bricklayer before achieving her role in social value. She advised everyone to make sure their LinkedIn profile was glowing and succinct to sell their talents to potential employers. Kimberley said to the women at the event: “We are all here to champion you and support you in getting into the industry.”

Kimberley McGinty

West London College Assistant Principal Lisa Portland is based at Southall Community College, home to WLC’s Construction and Green Skills Centre. Lisa explained that everyone present had many transferable skills for construction roles, directly related to studying a trade and the core functions of any business such as document management or office admin and HR. For women aspiring to work in the specialist trades, FE Colleges can offer construction training, including green and retrofit qualifications, which entail fitting a property with renewables or energy efficiency measures, as part of the national sustainability agenda.

Lisa said: “We currently have eleven women studying construction trades. We consult with them regularly to make sure the environment is supportive and inclusive as we want to recruit many more women to our courses for the future.”

Lisa Portland

Trained architect Alexandra Antonescu works as a design manager for ISG. A global construction company, ISG is currently completing the fit-out for Google and Deutsche Bank headquarters, and the construction of a research centre for UCL. Alexandra profiled some of the women in technical roles at ISG, and the company’s ethos is strongly focused on recognising the skills of women. She explained, “The CEO of ISG is a female executive who advanced within the company through her own efforts.”

Alexandra Antonescu

Cherrelle Abraham-Brown, Social Value and Community Manager with property developer London Square, talked about Holloway Park, an exciting partnership between Peabody and London Square. 985 homes will be built under the scheme on the site of the former women’s prison which closed in 2016, and 60% of the dwellings will be allocated for social housing.

Fifty-one construction trades apprenticeships are available as part of the game-changing initiative. Cherrelle urged the women present to ignore the stereotypes, choose a career in construction and become a role model for others.

Cherrelle said: “The Holloway Park apprenticeships are open to Islington residents, and we are introducing strategies to maximise recruiting women to these positions.”

Cherrelle Abraham-Brown

Sarah Kyasimire graduated from one of WiC’s short employability training courses, and after two weeks’ work experience with Kilnbridge Construction Services was taken on by them full-time as their stores manager. She soon moved on to a customer support role within the company’s waste management division, and will shortly move into the sustainability division of the company.

Sarah told everyone: “Don’t be afraid of what you don’t know. I was given an opportunity and I am constantly growing.”

Sarah Kyasimire

Women into Construction will be launching an employability programme ‘Women into the Green Construction Sector’, a sector-based work academy programme (SWAP) at West London College in the summer.

A group of unemployed women will be recruited onto the programme and will be offered a range of green skills training, an employability qualification, Health and Safety Level 1, and the opportunity to take a test to gain a CSCS card. Following this they will go on a two-week work placement with a top west London construction employer – and hopefully from there onto paid employment.

The further education colleges and training providers which are partnered with West London Green Skills Hub and also attended the event, were Stanmore College, West Thames College, Barnet & Southgate College, College of North West London, Harrow, Richmond and Uxbridge Colleges, West London College and MIT Skills Training.

Exhibitor from Danny Sullivan Group
Danny Sullivan Group
Exhibitor from St George Group
St. George Group
Two of the exhibitors from SUEZ

The employers who came to the Jobs Fair were ISG Ltd, Total Energies, Higgins Partnership, Bouygues, Danny Sullivan Group, The Hill Group, Suez Recycling & Recovery, Ardmore Construction, Flannery Plant Hire, Thames Water, Wates and St George – part of Berkeley Group.

Brent Works, which helps local residents into jobs and apprenticeships also attended the event and with Willmot Dixon ran a series of workshops on how to get a job in construction.

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