The latest cohort of Construction Future Wales’ (CFW) fully-funded Leadership & Management course has been made up of almost 50% women.
The fully-funded construction management course, which is run by Cardiff Metropolitan University, was started to provide businesses with the skills to effectively lead, supervise, and safely manage their staff in a bid to give Wales a competitive advantage on the world stage.
Construction activity contributes significantly to the Welsh economy by developing the people, skills, and businesses that drive supply chain demand and economic growth across the country.
By equipping those in the industry with the knowledge to understand the challenges of the future, the workforce can be developed to meet those needs.
The 2016-2020 Construction Skills Network Report for Wales forecasted that over 27,000 construction jobs could be created during this period, while the projected growth rate in Welsh construction output for the same timeframe is almost triple the UK’s 2.5% average at 7.1%.
Construction Futures Wales is the “Joint Investment Strategy” for the industry in Wales, fully-funded by the Welsh Government and CITB, designed to support the growth of Welsh construction businesses.
As opportunities in the industry have risen, Construction Futures Wales has seen increased interest from female applicants, with the current course supporting a cohort of almost 50% women.
One such participant in this year’s cohort is thirty-six-year-old Caroline Behan who moved to Wales from Ireland over 4 ½ years ago and started working for energy management firm Matrix.
She is in the current cohort of the CFW Leadership and Management Level 5-7 course which is delivered in Bridgend and has already progressed further in her career as a result.
She said: “I attained a degree in Business Studies in Ireland many years ago but never had the opportunity to venture into leadership and management.”
“The course has opened my eyes to show that you don’t have to be a manager or leader of a team to lead and manage.”
“If you have the drive and the want for something more and better than once you have the tools you can do it - and that’s what this course provides.”
Caroline believes that the course has not only given her the knowledge and skills necessary for her career, it has also given her the confidence to push forward in the industry.
“As far back as I can remember, women were never associated with the construction industry, but attitudes are changing, and more women are proving their worth and getting out there and showing they can do just as good, if not better, than their male colleagues.”
“Women today have no problems rolling up their sleeves and getting stuck in, be it holding a ladder or driving a digger, but there are changes happening, and I think it is for the better.”
“Without the Construction Futures Wales Leadership and Management course, I would have struggled to be able to afford to go back to college and further my education.”
“The leaders and trainers are a credit to Construction Futures Wales and I personally think they are what makes the course.”
The same has been true for thirty-one-year-old French native Claire Dioszegi, who graduated as a civil engineer in 2011 and has been living in the UK ever since.
While working on the M4 Corridor around Newport, she discovered Chwarae Teg, a Welsh charity which aims to support the economic development of women.
She said: “I started the programme of Construction Futures Wales Leadership & Management in May last year and I remember having no idea what to expect and being so surprised that I’d been selected for it.”
“The course came at a time when I was actively questioning where my career was going and what I wanted to do next. I was looking for a personal goal.”
“I think the course has helped me realise some of my capabilities and make me more confident.”
“It has also helped me understand I could still learn and keep learning to a high level, in what is often called ‘soft skills’.”
Since starting the programme, Claire is now working as a design manager on a Smart Motorway Project on the M6 and leads her own team.
“The course made me realise that I was strongly interested in managing and leading a team, helping people to become the best they can be while trying to achieve our goals.”
“I am still working on defining this purpose but am so much more confident I have the power to do it. I feel empowered.”
Although Claire believes that attitudes towards women in construction are changing, she still thinks there are improvements to be made and barriers to be broken down.
“I think attitudes in the UK are progressing much more than in France, although I see fewer women on site in the UK than in France.”
“I still have some odd looks when I come to work with a dress in the office, although I do not believe I have to leave my femininity out of work because I work in construction.”
“I have met some amazing people during this programme. People with high ambition, drive, and great ideas; people who are ready for significant challenges and are very open-minded.”
Unlike her fellow cohort member, twenty-five-year-old Natalie Morgan from Pembrokeshire has already secured a bachelor’s degree in Business Management from Cardiff Metropolitan University.
After graduating, she stayed in Cardiff and started working as a business development and marketing assistant for building services contractor Tremorfa.
She said: “The course is specifically designed to give those in the construction industry the necessary skills to become effective leaders.”
“It was carried out over ten months and consisted of six 2-day workshops in which our leadership skills are developed in order to create a strategy to grow our businesses.”
Having only been in the industry since April, Natalie was surprised at how far she had progressed in such a short space of time.
“Coming into the industry and Tremorfa with such little knowledge and surrounded by those who have spent their entire life in the industry, I was slightly intimidated.”
“However, I had so much support, and all the specialists are so passionate about what they do and loved to share their knowledge.”
Though knowledgeable in business management, she was worried about starting a career in the construction industry and thought she would find it harder to progress being female.
“I am naturally quite outgoing, talkative and have never struggled to fit in, and I’ve been made to feel more than welcome at Tremorfa and in the industry.”
“I do think there’s a shortage of women in the industry and especially women in senior roles.”
“There are a lot of women in marketing roles within construction, and it would be nice to see more at a senior level.”
“I think a lot more could be done in schools/colleges/universities to sell it as a more attractive career to both women and men, as I don’t remember ever discussing any potential construction careers with an advisor.”
“Some companies I’ve seen have women’s development programs, encouraging involvement in groups like women in property.”
“I think larger companies are leading the way to become more diverse with their workforce and in time I think we’ll see a lot more women in higher roles.”
The course is run by fifty-two-year-old Rod Keeble who has worked within the social housing and construction sector for over 30 years.
In 2014, he and his wife, Elizabeth, established a business consultancy called Resolve Consultancy Services (UK) Ltd.
Since joining Cardiff Metropolitan University’s Construction Futures Wales team, Rod has been the project manager for the Leadership and Management programme.
He said: “The Construction Futures Wales programme equips managers with the necessary skills to become proficient leaders.”
“The course enables participants to acquire strategic leadership and management skills to grow the business and benefit from insights shared by leading construction firms via industry-specific events and case studies.”
“This allows each cohort to explore strategic management approaches that can be implemented to raise productivity and drive their business forward whilst also gaining industry-recognised qualifications.”
“I think the course helps the students to raise self-awareness, develop as leaders, appreciate and have the ability to plan & control operations, as well as implement organisational change/policies that encourage innovation and lean.”
“As a result, we are creating a more competitive and resilient industry by attempting to fill the gap in the construction sector with a larger pool of potential leaders with the skills and knowledge to lead.”
“I feel that attitudes towards women in the industry are changing with more of a willingness and desire by employers to develop women, this is particularly borne out by the percentage of women booked onto our last cohort.”
For anyone Welsh construction-related companies that are interesting in developing their talent, a new cohort will be running for Level 5/7 in South Wales and North Wales from April and May 2018.
For more information about the work done by Construction Futures Wales or to apply for the next cohort, visit www.constructionfutureswales.co.uk.