Women in Construction Week 2024

Celebrating the achievements of former EN:Able Futures apprentice Katy Robinson, one of the NFB’s Top 100 Most Influential Women in Construction

The future for women in construction is looking brighter thanks to the efforts of former EN:Able Futures apprentice Katy Robinson who is spearheading a national campaign, appearing this week on  ITV News to speak about the topic she’s most passionate about, inclusive personal protective equipment.  She was able to share her personal experiences, the NAWIC Yorkshire research findings, and the wealth of knowledge she’s accumulated from her academic research on the topic, as well as help educate viewers on the difference between PPE designed for men and women.

Since completing her apprenticeship and gaining her qualification with a Distinction Star grade in 2018 to start her career path in construction, Katy has reached for the stars and grabbed them with both hands.

In 2017, despite never previously considering a construction career, Katy went for an interview with EN:Able Futures for the role of Assistant Quantity Surveyor. hosted by Kitchen Civils in Hull. “At the time I didn’t even know what a quantity surveyor was, “ Katy said. “obviously it's in the name; it’s about quantity and it's got a lot to do with maths. I'm not that great at maths, but I am good with Excel and I enjoyed learning all about how construction sites are priced, and spending time on live sites to see how they are organised.

“I was also given the opportunity to work in different departments, so I got a much broader experience that really helped me narrow down my career path in terms of things I did enjoy and things I didn't. It made me realise that I wanted more of a stakeholder facing role that's more about reports rather than numbers.”

Katy went on to a new job with East Riding of Yorkshire Council as an Assistant Project Manager and won the EN:Able Futures award for Technical Apprentice of the Year in 2018.  The first of many awards recognising her special talents.

“All the knowledge I gained from being an assistant QS made doing my new role so much easier, things like contract management I picked up quite quickly.”

She completed her HNC in Construction Management with another Distinction Star grade, finishing top of her class with an unconditional offer to study BSc Construction Project Management at Sheffield Hallam University, which led onto her winning Further Education Student of the Year at the 2021 G4C Constructing Excellence awards.

The G4C judges said about Katy: “This nominee demonstrates all the attributes to be a future leader in the construction industry. They have made a significant impact in their organisation and continuously expand their knowledge with relevant CPDs and training to better themselves in their role. An advocate for women in construction, and their involvement with the Young Talent Network shows that this nominee goes above and beyond to promote our industry”.

6 months later her Building Design team at East Riding of Yorkshire Council nominated her for the Hull & Humber Top 30 Under 30 ‘class of 2022’, which she won, followed by her promotion to Project Manager.

Katy said: “It was quite a shock when I won to be honest. I was 23 at the time, so to win something where you're up against people who were in their late 20s and have had a lot more experience than you have, it was quite a lot to take in at first.

“It turned out to be an incredible experience as all 30 winners got to take part in the LEAP Programme, a 12 month long training course that focuses on leadership, communication and public speaking. It really did increase my confidence in a lot of things, especially public speaking. This time last year I wouldn't have even attempted speaking to a crowd, but now I'm quite comfortable doing it, so I think it gave me the opportunity and the platform to do what I do now.”

“I think the experience of being in the workplace is something that university graduates really miss out on. I really valued all the time that I got to spend on construction sites during my apprenticeship, it gave me a lot of time to learn and watch and see what kind of techniques and methods to use, which is something that I've definitely used since in terms of the construction building projects I work on now.”

As a woman working in construction for the past 6 years, Katy is well aware of how intimidating it can be for women to start a career in such a male dominated workforce.

I was 18 at the time I was an apprentice and going on to construction sites for the first time. I think people would be lying if they said it wasn't intimidating walking onto a site full of men, but pushing yourself to do it and networking with other women in the industry to share your experiences are important.

“I work with the National Association of Women in Construction (NAWIC) in the Yorkshire region where we network with women in both technical roles like myself, but also trade roles on site. We’ve found it's been really useful to create a community where people can talk about their experiences and ask for advice, because in a lot of situations someone might be not be able to approach their manager about an issue, especially if their managers are male.

“When I started out as an apprentice my mentor at EN:Able Futures was a woman, Nicky Field, and I also had support from Caroline Key, who was the Shared Apprenticeship Scheme Coordinator at CITB. But there were no women in the construction department in my workplace itself, only in accounts. So it was quite hard to find those kind of role models. Now one of my line managers is a woman and I’ve had mentors who are women co-workers, so I think things have changed since I started in the industry and we’re now getting more women working in it, but more still needs to be done and eventually it’s going to be a snowball effect where the more women there are, the more it encourages others to join.”

Katy recently received another promotion to Senior Project Manager with East Riding of Yorkshire Council’s Infrastructure & Facilities Service. She works in the affordable housing team predominantly, overseeing projects from feasibility stages, to evaluate if land is worth developing, right through to design, planning, tendering, construction and finally handover when the building is complete and people move in.

It's no surprise that in May last year Katy was nominated for the National Federation of Builders (NFB) Top 100 Most Influential Women in Construction.

Our congratulations to Katy on everything she’s achieved.


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Written by Efficiency North