Constructing Lives Together logo by map of South West, with text saying 'construction training across the south west'

Constructing Lives Together – Karen’s Story

Last year, Weston College worked in partnership with construction company Willmott Dixon, to launch Constructing Lives Together, which aimed to support local adults to enter the construction industry.

One-year on, we have seen how beneficial this has been for the community, with local people having the opportunity to gain the certification and skills needed to enter the construction industry – including Karen, who is now a full-time Assistant Logistics Manager.

After a successful nine-year military career, Karen and her partner started a family, unaware to her at the time that it would 16 years until she would resume her career.

“I’d considered all kinds of jobs in the meantime to be honest but everything had to be flexible around childcare – caring, retail, office work just wasn’t me.”

Initially, Karen found work in the office of a construction company. They realised that her passion and previous experience as a Logistics Officer meant she would be more suitable on site.

18-months later, although armed with some initial experience and exposure, her career in construction hadn’t progressed and contract delays had meant that Karen was out of work, still lacking key qualifications and unsure about her next move.

Karen said: “I felt a bit stuck. I had enjoyed my first foray into construction but didn’t really have anything to show for it. I reached out to Weston College thinking maybe I would look at some trade qualifications, maybe carpentry. That was when the college reached out to me to tell me about the Constructing Lives Together programme.”

Karen signed up for the initiative, and soon found her first on-site experience, working at the Bristol Beacon for an initial two-week work experience period, with Willmott Dixon. The Bristol Beacon is a large complex build but the management team, used to supporting new entrants and apprentices made Karen feel at ease and supported.

Karren added: “I loved it from the start. I loved the people, the different characters, different backgrounds but that everyone was all pulling together as a team for the end result. It’s the closest thing to the military I’ve experienced.”

Two-weeks quickly turned into an extra three-weeks on a paid basis, because Karen had performed so well.

After six months, Karen’s hard work was rewarded with a full-time permanent contract with Willmott Dixon. She started without having the experience of a large construction site, but in such a short time, she is playing a crucial role in the day-to-day running of the site logistics for one of the biggest projects in Bristol.

When asked what this meant to her, Karen said: “The simplest way I can describe it is that I feel like I have my life back! This job is challenging and tough at times but ever so rewarding. I love it.

“I am really grateful to everyone involved, Weston College, Willmott Dixon, Acorn and the Constructing Lives Together programme. It couldn’t have happened if the programme wasn’t there allowing me to do my CSCS training and brokering the opportunity to get on site with Willmott Dixon.”

“I’m just going to give it my all, keep learning and hopefully once the internals of the building are in full-swing I can keep learning and work towards the skills and experience needed to be a Build Manager.”

Find out more about the Constructing Lives Together programme, which is being funded by the Construction Industry Training Board (CITB), by clicking here.