WHEN they first meet her, people are often surprised by construction worker Georgia Harper’s career choice.
Come rain or shine, the 22-year-old finds herself on muddy sites four days a week, working in an environment that is still predominantly male.
However, for Georgia – who works as a trainee site engineer for Caddick Construction – it’s the best job in the world, and all she’s ever wanted to do.
Now she is determined to break the old, outdated stereotypes that come with the construction industry and inspire more women to pursue a career in construction.
However, she admits that people are still often quite surprised when she tells them what she does and when she goes to sites.
She says: “People always ask ‘Why would you do that? It’s dirty and cold’.
“I like to have my nails and eyelashes done once in a while, so when people meet me, ‘a woman under construction’, it’s not always what they expect.
“I always laugh on site when someone asks for the engineer and I introduce myself, because they are usually quite surprised!”
“It’s in my blood”
Even as a child, Georgia knew she wanted to get into the construction industry.
She says: “When I was little in primary school, I often asked my father if I could go and work with him to deliver materials to construction sites.
“It was really here that my first passions for construction were ignited.
“I loved seeing all the different jobs happening around me, bringing such a massive build to life.
“I was like, ‘This is amazing!’
“It’s also worth mentioning that my grandfather was a building surveyor, so it’s definitely in my blood!
“I always wanted to be a site manager, so becoming an apprentice engineer on site was the ideal place; I gained real practical experience.”
“I am there four days a week”
Georgia’s passion for construction continued after she left school and she pursued it professionally.
She says, “After college, I was encouraged to take a university course in urban studies and planning, which didn’t quite fit my learning style.
“I quickly left the course to pursue a more practical route in the industry and found the perfect learning experience with Caddick.
“Now I’m on construction sites four days a week, with only one day at a desk at university.
“Caddick has given me so many training opportunities in my short time with them and I already have a lot of courses under my belt, from first aid to firefighting.
“Before getting my apprenticeship, I connected with my local planning department and a local architectural firm where I could get some work experience, which was great.”
“I want to inspire other women”
Now Georgia couldn’t imagine doing anything else.
She says, “I love what I do so much and I can’t believe I ended up in this industry.
“A lot of what I do is preparatory work for big building projects, so it’s really rewarding to know that no final build would be possible without those foundations.
“I’m so proud to do what I do every day, especially in a male dominated environment.
“Inspiring other women to get into it is definitely something I enjoy doing.
“One thing that I didn’t anticipate when I started a job is the diversity of each work day and the number of amazing people you meet.
“We have new artisans on site every day, so you’re constantly interacting with a whole range of new people.”
“There are disadvantages”
However, Georgia admits that it can sometimes be difficult to work in such a male-dominated environment.
She says: “Being a young woman in construction is not without its downsides.
“There aren’t always older female models on the site and not having someone to relate to can be difficult.
“That’s why it’s really important to me to help change the demographics of the industry.
“It can also be very painful in winter when it’s dark and cold, but in summer when the sun is out, it’s the best job in the world!
“I love the guys I work with, we have a great team there, but I would like to see more and more women in construction roles.
“You often find that women in industry lean towards clerical roles, whether it’s design and architecture or administration, but women are perfect for this job.
“With my work at Caddick, I have been invited to schools and colleges to talk to students about what we do.
“When I was studying, I was one of three girls in my course.
“Now there’s more of a 50/50 split in these classrooms, and it’s so great to see the next wave of women in construction coming.”
Climb the career ladder
For the career-focused Georgia, the only way is out of here.
She says, “Having an apprenticeship definitely has a positive impact on your financial prospects.
“Because I have real-life experience that my college counterparts don’t necessarily have, it just gives you a step up from the entry level.
“From my current role as an intern site engineer, there are many avenues for progression and the money definitely increases as you move up that ladder.”