I’m Louise, a degree apprentice in quantity surveying (QS) at Faithful+Gould, a member of the SNC-Lavalin Group, in the UK. My role consists of managing the budget of a project from the feasibility stages through to completion. Three years ago I didn’t know what a QS was, so it was quick turn around to it becoming my career!
I was looking online for degree apprenticeships in construction and stumbled across quantity surveying. It was the first job profile I read that made me think, ‘Yes, that’s me’. I’m naturally such a people person that I knew I wouldn’t be able to sit and stare at a computer screen all day. I loved the team aspect of the job and the balance between site visits and office work.
What did you want to be when you grew up?
Like most kids, I seemed to change my mind almost daily. Ideas ranged from pop star to doctor… marine biologist to Blue Peter presenter. Despite my varied career dreams, construction did not cross my mind until after I had finished my A-Levels. I’m not sure whether this is due to lack of exposure, or the misconceptions I had of the industry – I hope young girls nowadays know construction is an option for them too.
What subjects did you like at school?
I really enjoyed math. It was a subject I found very easy to understand from a young age. Equally, I loved physics and was one of two girls who took it on to A-Level. I also enjoyed geography, art, history and chemistry. I was really lucky as I went to a standard comprehensive school where the teachers were fantastic. They really believed in me and went the extra mile to make lessons fun.
What was it about Faithful+Gould that made you apply?
I knew I wanted to work for an employer that offered fantastic opportunities, prioritized staff well-being and made a tangible, sustainable impact on the world. Faithful+Gould ticked those boxes. I applied for more than ten degree apprenticeships, but Faithful+Gould had been my number one choice from the start.
How do you approach your role?
I try to be a creator, innovator, challenger, solver and thinker on a daily basis. Every project brings its own challenges whether that be to do with time pressures, a limited budget, or a family of badgers making their home on a construction site (that really happened). So I often need to be quick thinking and creative to think of solutions that minimize any negative impacts on the program or budget.
Who inspires you at Faithful+Gould?
There are so many amazing people who work here that inspire me daily. One of those people is my manager Michelle. She is one of the best QS’s I know, she really encourages others and celebrates their achievements, all whilst being a lovely person and a great mum to two wonderful daughters – she’s a real-life super woman!
What's your view on the culture at Faithful+Gould?
The main reason I wanted to work here is that the business takes its ethical responsibilities seriously with a big focus on diversity, sustainability, mental health and charity. With so many construction companies I could have worked for, the culture made Faithful+Gould stand out from the crowd. Despite being a large, international business, I have always found Faithful+Gould to be a friendly place to work. For example, it is very normal to see a director sat next to an apprentice or graduate, which is so refreshing.
What is it about your job that inspires you?
It sounds cliche but working as part of a team to achieve something together is quite inspiring. I’m motivated by watching a project progress over time, as all the different roles overcome challenges together to achieve the client’s brief. I also enjoy building a rapport with everyone on the project team.
Where do you see your career going?
At the moment, I’m just starting the third year of my degree and will hopefully graduate in the summer of 2021. After this, I hope to sit my assessment of professional competence (APC) to become a chartered quantity surveyor. Because I’m working on the job, whilst doing my degree, I am already shaping my career path, managing my own projects, gaining experience and learning vital skills.
I love my school projects, so I hope to continue working on these. In the future, I would like to act as a mentor to more junior staff members and become a line manager. I would also like to encourage more young people, of all socio-economic backgrounds, races, genders, sexualities and religions, to join the industry.
What has been your proudest career moment?
The fact I have managed projects, negotiated final accounts, challenged items I didn’t think were right and advised clients so early on in my career. Recently I was in a meeting of about eight people, where I was the only woman and the most junior staff member by a long way, which was pretty daunting.
Instead of focusing on this, I got out my notes that I had prepared, spoke up and helped to successfully negotiate the final account of a very challenging project. I also managed to maintain good relationships with the client, stakeholders and contractor. I have ensured that I don’t limit myself under the ‘apprentice’ label and try to represent Faithful+Gould as a professional.
What do you think is the single best thing about working at Faithful+Gould?
I have worked for Faithful+Gould for just over two years now and the opportunities I have already been given so early in my career are staggering. Working for a global company means there are opportunities to specialize, change divisions, work in other parts of the world or simply develop in the role you are in. I can’t imagine myself feeling limited or bored whilst working for Faithful+Gould.
What is the most exciting thing about construction right now?
The changes in the way the industry works. Construction has a reputation for being old-fashioned and behind the times, but I think this is changing fast. With climate change becoming an increasing problem in today’s world, it’s exciting to see how construction is adapting to this to create more sustainable buildings and construction methods. It gives me hope!What would you say to someone who is considering a career in construction?
Firstly, I’ve been there. Choosing a career feels like you’re mapping out your life down a specific route, which is pretty scary! But construction and engineering is a great route to go down. You don’t have to be the next Einstein or a super math geek (though it’s fine if you are). You need passion, good people skills and to be eager to learn.
What has surprised you most about working in the industry?
How people focused the career is. A lot of people might believe the stereotypes of engineering and construction being quite antisocial, computer focused and introverted. In reality, the industry is all about team work and collaboration. It involves sharing ideas and building relationships with people.
Why should girls in particular consider construction as a career?
When you hear the word ‘construction’, most people think of plain, uninteresting construction sites with men wearing high vis gear and hard hats – that really is not the case! It doesn’t showcase the intricately designed, state-of-the art-buildings that are created, the team work involved, the snazzy offices you work in and the limitless career opportunities you can be given. There is a shortage of women in the industry due to these old-fashioned stereotypes and this needs to change.
I’m fortunate that in my office, I work with so many amazing women (and men) who encourage and support one another and are also brilliant at their jobs. In my experience, the women I work with don’t just ‘get the job done’, but they completely excel in their role and are trailblazers for all the aspiring girls and women with big dreams. As a company, we can put all the processes in place to encourage women into the industry – but the only real way of shifting this gender imbalance is for more women and girls to decide to do construction.
What do you do when you're not at work?
Work life balance is one of my top priorities – I enjoy work, but my home life is super important! I am a creative person, so I enjoy baking, cooking, painting and crafting. I’m a bit of an old lady at heart, so love to get comfy with a good book or go for a nice walk in the countryside. Equally, I love having a good laugh and I’m nicknamed ‘Little Miss Chatterbox’, so like doing what most 22 year olds like to do – spend time with friends and family, host dinner parties, go to the pub, house parties, girls’ nights, shopping and watching The Great British Bake off – who doesn’t?
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