Housebuilding and me: Karen Wass of Countryside

Housebuilding and me: Karen Wass of Countryside

With a host of skills, qualifications and on-site experience, Karen Wass, a trainee site manager at Countryside, speaks to us about what she loves about her job and how she is working to achieve her career ambitions in the housebuilding industry.

Please tell us about your role and career path.

Having studied bench joinery at college and gaining my diploma Level 3, I decided to undertake an extra year to achieve my diploma Level 2 in Site Carpentry. During this time, I signed up for the Construction Training Initiative (CTI) run by Notting Hill Genesis. Some three years later, whilst working part-time in a shop, I received a call from the CTI asking if I was still interested in working on a construction site. I couldn’t believe that after all this time they got in touch to offer me a placement starting on-site the following week!

I’d been applying for carpentry jobs and, since having had no luck, jumped at this opportunity. I had three placements on three different developer’s sites and with different carpentry companies. Whilst working on the sites, CTI enabled me to complete my NVQ Level 2 in Site Carpentry.

My last placement was on a Countryside site at Barham Park in Wembley, working for Brendan Flynn Carpentry. Upon starting, I expressed an interest in working in site management and after five months I was employed as a trainee assistant site manager with Countryside.

Countryside has also put me forward for the BTEC Level 4 HNC Diploma in Construction and the Built Environment and also my NVQ Level 4 Diploma in Construction Site Supervision – Building and Civil Engineering.

What sort of new homes projects have you worked on to date, and what was it about them that you most enjoyed?

The three sites that I’ve worked on under CTI, including Countryside’s Barham Park development, have been spread across London, delivering flats and houses for private sale, affordable homes and shared ownership. My role as a carpenter saw me complete a lot of internal work across the sites. As a trainee assistant site manager I particularly enjoy finishing properties and making sure that they are of the highest standard and ready for client inspection. It is extremely satisfying to complete a project, ensuring that all the specialist tradespeople have worked hard to achieve a fantastic result.

What work challenges does your role entail, and what gives you most satisfaction to overcome?

Being a site agent is a challenging role, especially as a woman and a trainee. Women, like any other person in this industry, need to be tenacious, as there are a lot of talented people and we are certainly still working in a male-dominated industry. I love my job, so everything – even the little things – give me satisfaction. It’s also hugely rewarding to feel that you’ve had a hand in creating a home for someone which will be loved and cherished.

Are there specific professional and personal skills that would make someone with your skill set especially suited to the new homes sector?

Personal skills are important within this industry as you work with such a wide variety of people. Being a single mum has also taught me how to juggle demands and handle different situations, which helps me in my role. You need to be organised and methodical in everything you do. You also need to not take everything personally – you’re there to get a job done and, inevitably, there will be some tricky situations where not everyone’s going to like you.

Do you have any advice for anyone considering a role like yours as a career path?

Work hard and be committed and enthusiastic in your role. If I can do it, anyone can! Over a year ago, I would never have thought I’d be in this position. It’s all about believing in yourself and going for it – you’re just as good as anyone else. Having the support from a company like Countryside makes all the difference. My line manager and higher management have supported and guided me along the way, ensuring I progress.

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