Twins from Kent have been enjoying life in the UK housebuilding industry following advice to try it out from their father, thanks to an opportunity from Bellway Kent.
For Lizzie and Amy Catt, the industry is in their blood, with father Steve a senior regional director for NHBC. When he heard that his daughters thought that construction was a career only for boys, especially those with little academic ambition, and was keen to demonstrate to them that there were a range of jobs on offer in the new homes sector that are not aimed at specific gender or level of qualifications.
It was his advice that led the girls to apply for some work placement experience, with Bellway offering Amy an office-based role at the Kings Hill headquarters and Lizzie some work on-site a few miles away at the 1811 development in Leigh.
Here’s what the twins have to say about their respective work placements.
Lizzie says: “I had never been on a building site before and it wasn’t anything like I expected. It was a very respectful and friendly environment. It was nothing like the building site stereotype.
“I didn’t have any interest in working in construction before. I was fairly set on a career in the police force. Now I’m interested in becoming a trainee assistant site manager when I leave school.
“We had an agenda to follow for the week, starting with an induction to working on site – where to go and what to do, for example if a truck is reversing, what to do if you see someone doing something wrong. I learned about substructures, super structures, first fix, second fix, final fix and CML sign off. I also learned about how the site team works alongside the team in the office, especially the technical department. We talked through materials call-offs and ordering everything just in time.
“I also gave a toolbox talk, which is where we assemble everyone working on site to discuss one topic or way of working and everyone signs to say they have understood.
“During the summer, I’m hoping to do a few more weeks of work experience. I’ve seen all the processes but not worked on implementing them.
“I really only did this to keep Dad happy but now I’m glad I did.”
Site manager Ashley Tassell, who was Lizzie’s mentor while she was on the 1811 project, says: “This week has really opened Lizzie’s eyes. She could start as a trainee site manager and go to college one day a week then move into an assistant site manager role whenever she is ready.
“She is very independent and strong. She doesn’t shy away from conversations. I’m sure she will do very, very well. You don’t need to know how to do every job on a site, it’s how you manage the people and that’s a skill I believe Lizzie will have.”
Amy found her office role equally interesting and varied: “Before I came here, when I thought about housebuilding I didn’t think about everything that’s behind the process. I just thought about people building houses. Now I have learned about all the different areas and departments. There is so much more than I thought. I’m now keen to explore this area more.
“I’m not sure what I want to do after I leave school. I’m quite creative, so I have been learning about how houses are designed. I had no idea how long it took for a house to get to the first stage of being built.
“I was given a project to look at designing a show home for the new Bellway development in Kings Hill, which will be called 63. I was given an idea of who the buyers were likely to be so I could create a house to suit their lifestyles. Then I presented the designs I had come up with before I finished the week. I tried to show the characteristics I associated with each of the people living in the house on the mood boards. I’ve enjoyed it because I have always been interested in fashion design and this is a similar discipline.”
Jon Woollerton, the senior technical manager who mentored Amy for her time with the company, says: “Amy’s ideas were really very good, so much so that we will be using her mood boards as a brief for the interior designers of the show home. The work is of such a high standard, that’s what it deserves.
“We will keep Amy involved and bring her to see the house as it is being built, then again when it is dressed as a showhome. We’d like to introduce her to the interior designers so she can explain the thinking behind her designs to them.”
Steve Catt says of his daughters’ experiences: “I’m very keen for the housebuilding and construction industries to utilise the talents offered by the whole available workforce in the UK. I wanted to open Amy and Lizzie’s eyes to the opportunities that they might miss if they carried on with their rather blinkered view of the industry.
“The resulting experience that they had with Bellway Kent appears to have been a great success in this regard. It helped immensely that the directors, managers and other staff at Bellway showed such an interest in them and made their weeks so involving and varied – not something every work experience pupil benefits from.
“Amy and Lizzie had very different weeks in the various departments, but both came away with a fresh and enthusiastic view of what it means to work in the housebuilding industry – and that it’s not just ‘jobs for the boys’.”