My career path into construction has been a winding, sometimes bumpy, but definitely worthwhile, journey. It hasn’t been the traditional route from school into higher education or an apprenticeship. When I was in my teens I fell on hard times. It was a struggle as I found myself homeless and felt that there were no opportunities for me to pursue a career, I just needed a job. I found myself working in hospitality, in bars and shops, but I knew it wasn’t what I wanted long-term.
When I was younger, a friend’s dad was an architect and it had got me interested in the built environment. I was worried I had no way in to it though as I had left school without any qualifications. Whilst working, a friend told me they’d decided to go back to college and it was the push I needed. I decided to follow their example and take the leap to find out what I needed to do to get into construction. In the space of just four weeks I was accepted on to a National Certificate (NC) course, quit my job, said goodbye to my friends and moved to Stirling to start studying. Part of me questioned if I was crazy but I knew I couldn’t miss the opportunity.
I went on to study for the Higher National Certificate (HNC), which was when our lecturer told me about Novus. Novus is a group for young construction professionals, run by the CIOB, which prepares you to be the next generation of industry leaders. I joined the group in Glasgow and suddenly my eyes were opened to the different avenues and opportunities this industry offers. You come into the construction industry just thinking of site managers. You don’t often realise the variety of roles until you start to meet people at networking events and get talking about what they do and why they love it. One of my favourite things about being involved with Novus is that you get to meet so many different people from so many different backgrounds. There will always be someone who’s got a similar back story to you or had similar experiences who can give you advice and guidance.
In fact, it was through a Novus networking event that I found out about a work placement with a local company. I went from doing two days a week with them on placement, to getting a summer job, which then turned into a part time job whilst I was back studying followed by my industry placement with them. So much came from just that small opportunity of a work placement and now I get to be working whilst studying.
Continuing your professional development is such an important part of a career in construction and one of the advantages of working and studying at the same time is seeing how what you learn in the classroom translates to the site and vice versa. Novus has added another layer to that. While I’m studying at university, often the lecturer will start discussing a topic that we’ve also been talking about at Novus and you can see how what you’re learning is directly related to the job itself. You also bring something new to the lectures because you can share how industry is changing on the front line with your classmates.
Doing this all day every day, being on site and then going to events and lectures, it’s interesting to me. I love what I do and meeting the people that I do. This isn’t just a job to me. It’s a career and a passion and it’s an industry that encourages you. Your age or background don’t limit you, and Novus especially tries to harness your enthusiasm and drive to push you further forward and give you a voice as they recognise that even at the early stages you have value to add. My aspiration is to become a project manager, but I still have 18 months left of studying to get through first and I’m excited to continue the work with Novus to help get me there. In May, I will become the Chair for a new Novus group launching in Edinburgh. I’m so excited not just to see us expanding in Scotland but to get an opportunity to give back and offer people the same chances that I’ve had in my career so far.