Living The Best Life – Ciara Burden
Muddy Boots, wolf whistles and grime are perhaps the stereotypical images that spring to mind when thinking of construction. Ciara Burden, a dynamic 21-year-old woman, doesn’t typically fit this picture and for good reason as modern construction, although sometimes still muddy, is a lot more diverse these days.
Ciara didn’t start out yearning for a job in the construction industry. When she was at school, it wasn’t even on the radar as far as careers go.
‘If someone had said to me, “What about a career in construction?” my first thought would have been EUGH, NO! That initial reaction is purely down to me stereotyping a whole industry as being associated with men, mud, working in the rain and not how I see myself living my best life.’
It was almost by chance that Ciara, an Assistant Quantity Surveyor at Persimmon Homes, started her apprenticeship there. She originally applied for a role as a sales advisor, having decided that Uni life wasn’t for her. She said,
‘I think it’s important to recognise that Uni isn’t for everyone.’
The commercial director sat in on her interview and after looking at her CV discussed the potential of her taking up an apprenticeship as a quantity surveyor. She laughed,
‘In my head, I remember thinking, what the hell is a quantity surveyor?’
Ciara Sees Opportunities For Women In Construction
Always wanting a career, rather than just a job, Ciara was sold on the possibilities that were laid before her. Now, several years down the line, she is passionate about her role, has been encouraged to learn and has been treated with the utmost respect by everyone, whether in the office or on-site. Although her role is largely office based, when travelling to visit the various sites and asking the construction crew about their roles, they are always keen to show her the ins and outs of what they are doing. A great way to gain experience.
Women only form a small percentage of the workforce which is something that Ciara would like to see change. She said,
‘Women are just as strong, just as intelligent and more than capable of doing what is traditionally known as a man’s job.’
She went on to explain that modern construction has come a long way from the stereotypical images of burly men, banter and bricks. There is no reason why more women can’t work on a construction site if they so desired but emphasised that there are many diverse options besides the outdoor physical, labour-intensive roles. Careers are varied and interesting, like civil engineers, architects – to design and draw the buildings and roads, buyers and surveyors, such as Ciara, who manage the financials.
Ciara normally attends college once a week to complete her 4-year HNC course and to receive an official qualification. She sees it as ideal, gaining experience with no mounting student loans and once qualified, she just needs to work back her time at Persimmon. She smiled,
‘That’s the guarantee of work after I qualify, I thought I’d hit the jackpot!’
She also learns about all aspects of construction at college, including sustainability, and would like to explore ways for construction to have less impact on the environment in the future.
Cementing A Future
Nominated as Business Trainee of the Year, Ciara was promoted from a trainee to an assistant after only 18 months – proof of her hard work and dedication. She is now responsible for three sites across Devon and Somerset, where she monitors and allocates the costs within the site budget. Whilst this can be challenging, needing to justify the losses and profits and pre-empting what might go wrong are all part of her role.
Ciara has been able to work from home, during lockdown. A large part of her job is pre-construction which means that she can plan ahead and get sites ready for the future. And talking of home. She is delighted to have recently been able to buy her very first 3- bedroom home with her boyfriend, who also works in the industry as a bricklayer. She commented,
‘Choosing an apprenticeship nearly 3.5 years ago rather than going to Uni has allowed me to save so much more, achieve promotions more quickly and buy a house by the age of 21!’
Written by Stella Nicholls
Photos supplied by Ciara Burden