As VGC Group’s women in construction champion, I’m responsible for attracting women to the industry.
Although I deliver many presentations on this subject I’ve decided that I’d like to get some hands-on experience so that I can give the women I talk to an honest insight.
I want to do a week’s experience on a major site to begin to understand just how it is for a woman to work on site from the starting level. I’ll find out how they are received, how hard the work proves to be, and how to juggle the hours as a working mum, so I can see what effect that may have on my home life.
I put my idea to a number of high profile clients; Thames Tideway Tunnel project was keen to help. I was thrilled as I love everything about the Tideway project: what its people are setting out to achieve, the legacy they are leaving behind as result of the involvement of the surrounding communities, and the volunteering buy- in from their staff. They tackle everything from clearing the shores of litter and water testing to planting trees. They even help to dish up dinners at local homes for the elderly.
Preparing for the week took several steps.
The first thing I had to do was gain my green CSCS card (labourer card). That meant attending a day-long health and safety course with a test afterwards and then a touch -screen test after that. I achieved 100% in both tests (but I did cram and cram for them, so was very pleased my efforts paid off!).
Then it was time for my Tideway induction and I was so excited.
Thames Tideway Tunnel induction 15 – 16 May
The first day involved a full medical, plus health and safety and understanding plain English tests. I passed with flying colours, although I was advised that my blood pressure is very low. This seems shocking, considering I have a teenage daughter at home. I thought it would be through the roof!
Day 2 was taken up with an immersive course called the EPIC induction – with good reason. It was amazing. I can’t say too much about it as people have to start the day without preconceptions, but it deals with health and safety. The underpinning Tideway message is that the standards you walk past are the standards you are accepting. The intention was to give everyone the skills, knowledge and confidence to work in a safe environment as well as to ensure it is safe for all others, by demonstrating the consequences of different types of behaviour on site.
Towards the end of the day the trainers taught us how to deal with challenging behaviour in a range of ways. This involved learning how to recognise different personalities. We learned to consider how we might talk to those who seem to demonstrate unhelpful personality traits in a way that would make them think and take action.
(I tried the technique later that evening on my teenager. It worked like a charm and I actually got a positive response rather than an eye roll – fabulous!)
The EPIC induction was incredibly thought-provoking. It gave me some tools that I will use from now on in my career. I am also planning to share some of the material with our Women in VGC network, to help them build the confidence to challenge behaviour effectively.
I loved the whole day and want to do it all again!
Starting on site
I begin my week on site on 18 June. I’m really looking forward to meeting everyone and seeing the project from a site perspective as well as adding my own small contribution. It will be good to say, proudly: “I did that!” (even if it is clearing the site and sweeping up…).