Why we need on site representation!

Because we don’t have any…………..the end.

Ok not done just yet, but how many events and panels and speakers do you see covering construction but how rarely do we see someone from site, I am not talking about your project managers, your engineers, your architects, I am speaking about workers from the ground level – your carpenters, bricklayers, ground workers, pilers, labourers you just don’t see them.

We spend so long talking about the problems of attraction, retention, diversity in the industry but rarely to we show a full representation of the industry, how can we fix the problems effecting the whole industry if we don’t ask the industry as a whole.

I think I saw just how important this was last week where I was the site representation, I sat on a panel with two CEO’s & a Director discussing inclusivity within the industry. At first I read the line up and really couldn’t see how I might fit in but once on the panel I saw just how important it is to have site representation on a panel, I was the only one with on site experience, I was the only one discussing problems for people working on site and why we are losing people and struggling to recruit people from this level. The feed back I received was great and it impacted why having an on site representative is massively important.

We need to stand up and talk about the issues as we see them, we need to ask the hard questions, only by doing this things will we change the industry for the future and truly change what it means to work on site.

Recently I attended a fabulous event about inspiring change within the industry and saw a host of speakers talking about what we need to change and grow on in the industry to recruit the future. One well known large construction company CEO was there discussing all the things they have going on within the company and what they are doing to change up the industry but one thing for me was missing, the on site aspect so I thought hard about a question and I asked it

“How are we suppose to inspire the next generation into an industry that currently gets up at 5am works till 6/7/8pm and does sometimes an expected 6 days a week, what is your company currently doing to make things better for people on site”

Needless to say I felt completely fobbed off by the answer and was told something around the area of to email my CEO if I need to leave work early.

If we boast about about things like flexible working within our companies are we following it through to the whole of company? So many schemes stop just before they hit site, the great agenda’s and changes put in place at higher levels rarely make it that far down the chain.

Do people on site not deserve the opportunity to have the same work/ life balance as people who work in offices? Do they not have family commitments that matter? Are they not also part of the wider picture, part of the same company?

We moan about the lack of people working within our industry, the lack of interest from schools in our industry, we are coming up against a huge skills shortage a massive lack of people wanting to take up the tools but we are not willing to change how we currently to things to make this industry far far more attractive to the next generation!

If we cannot get the basics right we will always be on the back foot, always scrapping around for people and always losing the great people we already have because currently we are massively unaccommodating and inflexible.

I am looking to set up a database on my website for site representatives who would like to get involved in speaking at events, schools etc so people can find you. If you are interested please drop me a message – Website is http://www.katiecranes.com

Please also keep an eye out for the Laing O’Rourke Energy project, we are currently trialing it with Tower Crane operators and so far the feedback has been great!

LOR Stories Feature

At work we have a new website LOR Stories that I have just been featured on, the feature was taken back in September.

Editorial –
https://lorstories.global/articles/how-women-in-construction-can-make-their-mark

Pod Cast –
https://lorstories.global/podcasts/podcast-with-katie-kelleher

What could be done to improve diversity in construction?

Yesterday I was quoted in the CN briefing that was emailed out and I wanted to just expand on the briefing bellow.

I was asked to comment on what could be done to improve diversity in the construction sector and if off site can be used to attract more women to the industry ?

I was also told that a recent Scottish Parliament committee meeting the panel discussed that off site might attract more to the industry compared to on site work.They went on to say that on site conditions-such as travelling far from home and uncertainty relating to jobs and hours may make the factory conditions of off-site a more attractive prospect for women.

Huge question right and just like everyone else I don’t really have the magic answer for this, I believe there are a number of issues that need addressing in order to attract women to the industry and do I think off site can be used to attract more women….. probably but there shouldn’t be any reason we can’t change the way the industry is currently t in order to attract more women.

If I look at this in a fairly simple way I think the first problem we have is visibility and women being aware of the opportunities that are available to them in a on site capacity, the ability to learn a completely new trade etc via an apprenticeship or course. Much the same as previously to me being offered my apprenticeship I really didn’t believe I could ever do something like crane operating.

The next problem we have is the lack of flexibility in an onsite capacity, I go a lot of office meetings where everyone pats themselves on the back because Jean, David and John get to either come in later or leave earlier to accommodate their children and lives at home. Unfortunately none of this translates to the people on site they can’t come in later because the morning briefing will not be moved, they can’t leave earlier because they are not doing their bit for site, being a team player and they will leave everyone one person down or leaving plant without an operator.

The industry is in generally massively less accommodating for people in on site roles, add in the mix of agency workers and the ability to change staff easily and the fact that if you won’t work on a weekend or stay the extra hours if needed – you are viewed as being a bit awkward, it makes it very hard for people to say no.

It’s a vicious circle the people on site won’t stand up because they don’t want to rock the boat and risk losing their jobs, they don’t wan’t to be awkward and they are grateful for the job but they realise they are not irreplaceable.

There is no reason why we can’t make the site more accommodating for everyone, yes it will take a lot more work and it will be hard to put things in place but is the industry willing to make this happen just yet ?

I agree we can probably do more to attract women in an off site capacity but in all honesty why can’t we make the changes on site to make everyones lives better, we all go on about mental health and how important it is but we have plenty of people working away from home for massive hours and the industry gives very little to them in return. Ok the pay is good but there is a lot to be said for working in a stable and secure enviroment where everyones life balance matters.

If we improve on site conditions, flexibility and visability I think the diversity numbers will increase themselves.

Women in construction numbers – Close up!

As an aside if we look into the numbers as given to me by Kath Moore of Women into Construction

Women in the industry overall is 12-13%

About 10-11% are engineers

Leaving 2% in the manual area!

When we look deeper into this manual area most are working in unskilled areas including cleaning. The true figure of those who are trades women inc plant operators is around 0.7%

The majority of that 0.7% work in painting and decorating

THE NUMBER OF WOMEN IN TRADES HAS NOT IMPROVED IN 30 YEARS!!!!!!!!

In short I have no magic to make this better but I think with a few small changes we could make the on site part of the industry a lot more on par with other industries in the UK in terms of attraction for women. It is a sad thought that women pick other industries over ours just down to sheer flexibility that we currently can’t offer, imagine how much talent is slipping through our fingers.

Thank you Caroline Wadham from Construction News for letting me get involved.

”Do you wake up in the morning and go to work to be part of the solution or do you go in to be part of the problem?”

This was something I heard on the train yesterday while I was sat reading and it struck a bit of a chord with me.

I often speak about the first time I went to site and how if I was younger or if it was my first job I wouldn’t have made day two. I attended site with just an address, a time, contact number and was told to attend site induction. Being my first time on site I didn’t really know the format of these or where they would be held so I went to the office and followed instruction to go upstairs and wait.

I went upstairs and walked into a room full of guys getting briefed, I now know it was a brief at the time I didn’t know if it was the induction. I walked into the room and it went quiet nobody said anything, everyone just looked at me, so because I believed I was supposed to be there I walked slowly to the back of the room. Eyes followed me as I took each step, I eventually reached the rear of the room put my back to the wall and slid down it till I reached the floor. I quickly realised I wasn’t suppose to be there but I really didn’t want to move again, so I waited till everyone finished and left the room.

During this time I questioned my choices –

Should I have stayed in recruitment ?

What was I doing there?

Site wasn’t for people like me?

It’s not to late to do something else ?

Why was I doing this to myself?

It was 100% a fight or flight moment and looking back I am worried if I was a younger apprentice or if this was my first job would I still be doing what I do now and I think the answer is – no I wouldn’t!

My first few days on site everyone continued staring, they continued talking about me, asking my team was that woman any good, making sly comments and jokes. It was hard going and if I am honest I wanted to be so good but probably wasn’t overly, I did my time in our yard but until you get out on site and figure out your bearings and who you are working with its all a bit trial and error and getting to know the team.

So the big question is are you part of the solution or are you part of the problem?

Do you welcome new people to site? Do you take time to talk to apprentices? Do you try to pass on your knowledge? Do you say hello to new faces? Do you make people feel comfortable?

Or do you talk about them? Ignore them? Belittle them? Exclude them? Make jokes about them?