Female representation in the wet trades is still a rarity but Naomi Hamilton is a bricklayer who’s on course for big things. Professional Builder’s Lee Jones talks to the apprentice about her burgeoning career with Lee Marley Brickwork.
The construction sector is already in the midst of a well-documented skills crisis, with shortages in certain trades already threatening to inflate project costs. The impact of the pandemic will no doubt mean further unfortunate losses in willing workers to the industry, and history teaches us that many of those young entrants might never return. Of course, what would go some way to developing the necessary talent would be to encourage the half of the population which is at present woefully under-represented at many levels to consider the trades, and Naomi Hamilton of Brooklands College, and Lee Marley Brickwork, is a trailblazer in that cause.
“To be honest, I did kind of fell into it at first,” admits the 19-year-old, “but as soon as I had a go my tutor wanted me on the course straight away.” What the Weybridge further education facility’s Christian Hatherall-Good recognised was a talent that has since gone on to take part in two successful competitions, and winning an FIS Award for her college work, whilst Naomi is now honing her skills on one of the nation’s leading brickwork contractor’s new build schemes.
“You do have an idea in your head of what a job like bricklaying involves and I must say it did come as surprise just how much more creative it is. You can become quite imaginative with brick when it comes to things like curved walls, arches and spiral piers. They’re a challenge to have a go at, but there’s real pride to be had in making something.”
Now that Naomi has passed her NVQ Level 2 apprenticeship, she will shortly be embarking on her NVQ Level 3, and has been fully supported in her career path by family and friends. Predictably, she is currently the only girl in her class, and on site but has found a generally favourable response from colleagues in her fledgling profession. “Whether you’re a man or a woman if you demonstrate that you can do the job, then you’re accepted,” declares the Staines-based tradeswoman. “A lot of the barriers that exist at the moment are to do with it not being properly promoted as something young women can do,” she concludes. “If it were I’m sure you would see a lot more people like me on site.”
Lee Marley Brickwork is one of the UK’s leading integrated brickwork, scaffolding and stone sub-contractors. The firm is championing female participation in the built environment with a number of women pursuing a career in construction on their payroll in roles as diverse as logistics manager, quantity surveyor, system manager, scaffolding surveying manager, site administrator and health, safety & environment manager.
Dan Clarkson, Joint Managing Director at Lee Marley Brickwork explains the company ethos: “Our business is a people business. We need to bring in individuals with the right skill sets, intellect and with varied perspectives in order to continually evolve our service so we can remain successful. Ignoring half the labour pool is simply not an option. Women not only add to that skills mix, but improve it by bringing a diversity of thought and approach to problem solving.”
For Dan, a thriving built environment sector means promoting the industry as an attractive path for the brightest and best candidates – and dispelling some persistent misconceptions. “The construction industry needs to get better at articulating the opportunities available within it. The industry has changed radically over the last 10 years and it is no longer about brute force and physicality. Projects are growing increasingly complex and there are an ever-growing number of roles that would have a much wider appeal to job seekers. There is also a greater level of job security and work-life balance than there has been in the past but that is not apparent to those outside the industry”.
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For further information on Lee Marley Brickwork visit http://www.leemarley.com