29th April 2019

Never too young to be a mentor in construction

At the Generation 4 Change (G4C) Yorkshire and Humber awards in March, CIOB Novus sponsored the Mentor of the Year 2019 category. The awards recognise the individuals and companies that support, mentor and shape the future leaders of construction. We caught up with winner, Danielle Fleming, about why she is a mentor and why you're never too young to be one.

What has it meant for you to win the award? 

I have been delighted to receive this award. I love Building Surveying first and foremost and to be able to channel that love into being or becoming a positive role model for young people making career choices is so rewarding for me. 

I did not feel I had appropriate careers advice or guidance which would have allowed me to take subjects and interests I had at school and use them to make educated career choices. Young people are expected to make these decisions quite early that can impact on the rest of your life. I stumbled across the construction industry by accident and as a result of a love for art and design. I don’t believe the construction industry should be the accidental career choice. It has something to offer for everyone (a role for everyone) no matter your background, strengths or interests. It is an industry where you can achieve success.  

It is important for me to at least give young people the chance to consider a career within the construction industry. I have put a lot of voluntary time and effort into this and to be recognised for this makes me feel proud and gives me a sense of achievement.  

Why do you think it is important to mentor and encourage others into a construction career? Why don't you have to wait to have 30 years+ experience to do it?

I do think there are negative connotations associated with the construction industry from past negative press or stereotypes which have been around for years. In reality the industry is rarely like it is perceived and it needs enthusiastic, positive role models to be visible within their roles and the community to prove these stereotypes wrong.  

It doesn’t just require conversations with students it requires addressing at all levels including teachers and parents as these are some of the most influential people in a young person’s life. If people do not encourage entry into the industry there will continue to be a skills gap and the industry will struggle with succession.  

I have had a relatively short and successful career in construction. I have had amazing opportunities, learnt from really knowledgeable and experienced people and always had support from colleagues and employers to grab these opportunities and run with them. My positive experiences and outlook on the industry makes me ideal to mentor and encourage others into construction careers.  

If you think you need years of experience to be a mentor, you don’t. People considering the industry need to see role models at all stages of careers within the industry. A role model with some but not vast experience can be relatable and give an idea of what you can achieve in a short space of time. You don’t need to have 30 years’ experience to mentor and encourage just be positive, passionate and be willing to share this with others.  

Have you benefited from mentors in your own career profession or a network of young professionals to encourage you along?  

The most influential people in my career have been the people I have met along the way.  I have met tutors, lecturers, fellow students and colleagues with great knowledge and experience and I have taken something from everyone to contribute toward my career progression. 

At East Riding of Yorkshire Council in particular some of my more senior colleagues (a couple stand out) have voluntarily given their own time to help me with my development. I have spent a lot of time on sites with them, listening to them, hearing their good and bad experiences. The mentoring and encouragement they have given has helped me build my skills and confidence to a level where I feel I can do the same for others. None of these people were told to give up their time and they will never know how much of a positive impact this has had on me and my career.  

My managers are people I look up to. They have taught me skills beyond surveying that have improved me as a professional person as well as being supportive, approachable and facilitating me to be the best I can be.  

Finally, I have studied at both Hull College and Sheffield Hallam University where I learnt from impressive, experienced tutors with vast amounts of knowledge.  

What is the next step in your development/ what do you want to achieve next?  

My next step in my professional career is to become a chartered surveyor.  

I hope to continue engaging in STEM activities as often as I can with schools in the local area. I have some ideas which I hope to turn into interactive tools to use at careers fayres or during STEM activities.