Construction firm Barnwood is building a better future for women in its industry

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How Gloucestershire business Barnwood is stamping out stereotypes in construction such as ‘the wolf whistling builder’. It is prioritising a code of conduct across its sites to make the industry a much more attractive career option for women

Barnwood is an important employer in the region. Established in 1962, it now boasts a 250-strong workforce with projects reaching right across the UK recently with real estate developer MEPC’s science park at Silverstone, right next to the world famous Grand Prix circuit).

Managing Director of Barnwood Construction, Ben Ramsay, said: “With consistent growth over the last 10 years our employees remain our most important resource.

“We are passionate about construction which continues to be an exciting industry to work in with a wide range of different jobs available. The traditional front line trade-based roles all still remain, but there are also increasing opportunities in marketing, accountancy, project management and shopfitting.

“Unfortunately the ‘wolf whistling builder’ stereotype at times still dogs our industry and is something we are trying to break.

“I’ve been in construction for over 20 years and disappointingly, the number of female site managers available to employ remains extremely low, which is really frustrating.

“As an inclusive employer we are looking to recruit the best talent into the industry and our company, across all walks of life. To do this we are setting plans to dispel these stereotypes and attract a diverse workforce to come and work in our industry.”

There has been engagement with local primary and secondary schools and promotion at careers fairs as well as further education establishments including Gloucestershire College students who were recently given a site tour.

“Primary schools are important because even at that young age children are starting to form ideas – it’s an opportunity to break down misconceptions,” adds Ben. “Likewise secondary schools – teenagers about to embark on A Levels are at a stage when they will soon start to make their career decisions.”

“We are working with a number of clients and our supply chain to further improve the image of construction, to help re-adjust the current gender imbalance and bring the best talent into the industry.”

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“Women in Construction’ is an organisation already doing great work to encourage females into the industry. We are working with them to assist this activity and showcase some of the reasons to work in construction… Site management, design management, commercial management, plant operators, crane drivers, ground workers, brick layers, carpenters… the list of roles goes on and Barnwood is keen for each appeal to young women.” Ben Ramsay, Managing Director, Barnwood Construction

Barnwood employee Nikki Rowlands (Health, Safety, Quality & Environment) is very much at the construction ‘front line’. So too is Vicky Harker, Contracts Manager for Gloucester based Aluminium Sashes which works closely with Barnwood on many projects.

Nikki said: “Construction is equally challenging for men and women because you deal with complex problems, sometimes harsh working conditions and time pressures.”

“However that can make the job really rewarding. You certainly don’t need to be physically strong to work on site – more strong-willed and not let bad days knock your confidence. “Besides, any decent employer will resolve problems such as abuse or exclusion with discretion and dignity. Bullying, discrimination and unconscious bias are also better understood these days and people are more mindful of their actions and others.

Vicky says that in four years she has had mixed experiences in terms of recognition by male colleagues. “However,” she adds, “I do see attitudes changing and people being open minded. It’s nice to get positive feedback from site managers when you hand over projects. Barnwood and Aluminium Sashes have assisted with my learning in all aspects of the job and this shows their willingness to support women in to the industry. I’ve never had any issues with the Barnwood site teams; I’ve always been treated as an equal on building sites.”

MEPC’s Roz Bird, Commercial Director at Silverstone Park, (one of Barnwood Groups’ current projects) is highly supportive of Barnwood’s approach.

Roz said: “Gender equality in the workplace is a society issue not a women’s issue. If we want to attract and retain the best people then we need to remove gender stereotypes from schools, our high streets and our homes and give both men and women an equal chance to be the best they can be.

“MEPC can effect a positive change in the areas in which it operates and has influence, so we talk about the negative impact of casual sexism such as ‘pink jobs and blue jobs’, and we are championing Women in Construction with Barnwood and our other key contractors working on the exciting new developments at Silverstone Park.”

MEPC’s latest 258,000 sq. ft speculative industrial scheme at Silverstone Park is progressing on schedule with the first signs of steel construction works in mid-November. Roz added: “Barnwood Construction Ltd has made a really good start on site, in spite of some challenging weather conditions.

For over 55 years, Gloucester-based Barnwood Construction has been building a reputation for quality, collaboration and delivery. Barnwood Group includes Barnwood Construction, Barnwood Shopfitting and Barnwood General Works (which undertakes specialist construction projects).

It has seen considerable growth over the last decade and last year turned over more than £100 million, a record for the business to date.

Looking for a career in construction, could we be the team for you?

Attracting and retaining the most skilled and experienced people is essential to our business going forward. At Barnwood we rely on the skill, dedication and enthusiasm of all our employees to meet industry challenges and build a successful business. Our strong market position and forward-looking strategy means we have a positive approach and work in partnership with our employees to help them excel and achieve their potential. We are always on the lookout for contracts managers, surveyors, site managers, assistants and trainers as well as trades people in groundworks, carpentry and brickwork. barnwoodconstruction.com/careers

For information call: 01452 614124 Email: enquiries@barnwood.co.uk Visit: www.barnwoodconstruction.com