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As part of the #BuildingEquality Campaign, Leanne McLoughlin, Health and Safety Operations Manager, BAM Contractors Ireland, shares her story as a woman in construction.
My introduction to the industry was through an admin role for a company who supplied and installed products to the construction industry. I was intrigued by the people, the challenges, and the variability of the projects we supplied to. Health and Safety was not really a focus for the business I worked with, so I was asked by one of the directors to look into it. I undertook an introductory Health and Safety course with the local enterprise board. I found this part time six-week course interesting. While the company I worked with was small and did not require a health and safety officer I decided to enrol on the UCD Certificate in Safety and Health for my own personal development. From here I progressed on to the Diploma in Safety and Health, while continuing to work fulltime. Once graduated, I was approached by a main contractor who offered me a job as a site-based safety officer on a small project in the midlands and well the rest as they say is history.
In my 16 years in the industry, I have seen a change in delivery methods with a strong move toward modern methods of construction. This delivery model allows projects to be delivered faster, more efficiently with improved quality and reduced waste. Having less personnel on site and not as much variation of work, the safety and wellbeing of site personnel is easier managed. This move is and will continue to create the need for a more diverse and digitally skilled workforce. This is exciting as it will open new opportunities for young people, but also to those looking for a change in career. I believe to be successful Ireland should look to adopt an approach like that of the UK. Their government supported STEM Strategy – helping to empower future generations through science, technology, engineering, and mathematics to grow a dynamic, innovative economy, is one which I have seen first-hand being beneficial.
Being a STEM ambassador allowed me to engage with educational establishments and deliver positive STEM interactions for teachers, parents, and young people. Visiting schools and sharing my experience, the distinct roles, and opportunities that the construction industry has to offer and inviting students to participate in work experience and undertaking apprenticeship has attracted a more diverse workforce. Gaining first-hand experience on what doing the job was like enabled young people to make a more informed decision on their future. I have witnessed young people, mostly girls who a lot to offer the industry, come from all backgrounds enter apprenticeship in quantity surveying, procurement, estimating, digital engineering and tower crane operations.
I think for us to continue to attract a diverse talent we must change the perception that people both young and old have of our industry. We need the government to develop supported apprenticeships not only in the trades but across all functions coupled with a strong campaign in both primary and secondary schools. This will ensure the success of the industry in the future.
To learn more about the #BuildingEquality campaign and to share your own story, please visit our dedicated page here