Tenai Williams is a trainee design manager for Kier London. Here, she talks about her apprenticeship and how to promote similar opportunities to a diverse group of people, including the BAME community.
“I have been working at Kier for three years and started my career here on the construction technician apprenticeship course. The duration of this was 18 months for level 2 and a further 18 months for level 3 and I have since qualified as a trainee design manager.
When I was at school I never considered the construction industry as a viable option for me to progress my career. My sixth form was also only focused on students applying for university and it helped them with the tools they needed to succeed in this. However, I knew I wanted to earn money whilst learning and not get into debt, so I started looking into apprenticeships.
It was only when I started looking at apprenticeship opportunities on the .gov website that I came across opportunities at Kier. I found that it had a very accessible webpage and provided me with lots of information about the different careers it had available and I saw it could provide me with opportunities to progress in the form of degree programmes and graduate schemes.
My perception was that it was for males only and the only roles available were ones onsite physically building a project. Since joining the industry my view of it has changed dramatically. Throughout my apprenticeship I was on rotation and was able to see the variety of roles available across Kier; these included both site-based and office-based roles.
Working in the construction industry, you don’t always see a lot of diversity. For me, diversity in the workplace is very important and it brings a wealth of backgrounds and experiences that are hugely important to a team. Currently, BAME representation in engineering is just 6% and female representation in the industry is 10%.
The work that Kier is doing with Shaping Your World™ is fantastic. I think it’s important to engage which children at the right age and before they have a chance to develop a preconceived perception of the industry. As I’ve mentioned, at school I was always encouraged to go to university and no one really spoke to me about apprenticeships, I think it’s important for pupils to understand there are other options available to them.
Engaging with schools is a great way to reach a wide audience of young people from diverse backgrounds and reaching the BAME community. Showcasing the roles available and the development opportunities is a great way to encourage pupils to consider the built environment.
Since joining the built environment, the most challenging element has been coming into an industry I didn’t know much about. The subjects I chose at sixth form didn’t prepare me for this sector. However, everyone I have worked with has been so helpful in getting me up to speed and this, with experience gained meant that I soon built up knowledge of the built environment.
Doing an apprenticeship after sixth form has been really positive for me. University isn’t for everyone and this has given me the opportunity to really decide what I would like to do, whilst getting first-hand experience of working life. It has opened up doors for me and as of next February I will be doing the Kier degree in construction management – it’s a great opportunity as I am still able to work whilst studying and continue to gain invaluable experience. Upon completing my degree, I can then work towards becoming a qualified design manager.
When I was at school I had never even heard of the built environment, but now I’ve got a really exciting future ahead of me in an industry I love. This is why I think it’s important for the workforce to go out and promote this exciting sector to everyone.”