Ashley Dunsmore: How women fare in male-dominated jobs

Ashley Dunsmore has found a wealth of opportunities in construction. Picture: Contributed

Ashley Dunsmore has found a wealth of opportunities in construction. Picture: Contributed

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I had absolutely no clue what a quantity surveyor was or did when I was at school – it’s fair to say that I wasn’t encouraged to consider a career in construction.

At the annual careers fair, construction firms were nowhere to be seen. Instead, a job in the fire service, the police or as a beautician was all that was on offer.

The construction ­sector offers a wealth of opportunities

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None of these roles spoke to my inner geek. I loved watching the Discovery ­Channel and the programme Megastructures. When I was 14 and on holiday with my family, I took to haggling at the local markets like a duck to water. My mum said I should think about a career as a quantity surveyor. And so my journey began…

I ended up doing a four-year, full-time quantity surveying degree at ­Glasgow ­Caledonian University. Girls were ­definitely in the minority, representing only 10 per cent of students on my course.

I did a placement during my third year for a contractor based in Dundee and I was offered a job there when I finished my ­university course. However, I wanted to keep working towards my professional qualification and when I found out about Kier’s graduate scheme, I knew that was the route I wanted to follow.

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I was recruited to Kier’s three-year graduate degree programme, along with around 150 other graduates and I’ve already ­completed two-and-a-half years. The whole programme has really helped my career. It’s given me all the tools, mentoring support and experience I need to qualify for membership of the Rics Assessment of Professional Competence, and I hope to get my chartership later this year.

The graduate programme has given me a great mix of practical on-the-job experience, formal learning, first line management skills and professional development. I’ve had a great grounding in the business – spending my time on-site and in the office and I work on a variety of projects to give me a broad base to build my career.

I work at Kier Construction’s Aberdeen office and I’m currently leading an improvement programme at Aberdeen Fire Station north control room. I’ve also been able to see first-hand the major infrastructure projects that Kier is involved in, like the CrossRail project in London, as well as complex restoration projects like the Aberdeen Music Hall and Glasgow School of Art.

I’ve found that the construction ­sector offers a wealth of opportunities, with ­varied and interesting work across the industry and competitive benefits too. As well as typical construction roles, there are a host of architecture, engineering, surveying, project management and planning jobs. I’ve always wanted to travel and hope that by working with an international company that has offices in the ­Middle East, Australia and Hong Kong, I’ll get the chance to do more of that

There is no doubt that the construction industry is facing a skills shortage and the sector certainly suffers from an image problem. We need to see past traditional construction roles and open our minds to the numerous careers available to young people, ­especially young women.

Kier recently became a ­member of The Wise Campaign (Women in Science and Engineering) and is working with them to motivate girls and women to study and build careers using science, technology, engineering and maths (Stem). The mission is to get one million more women into the UK Stem workforce and to support them to help attract the next generation of talent.

I’m helping to play my part to encourage young people, especially girls, into this fantastic sector. I’m currently working with Kier on a series of careers fairs throughout Scotland to raise the profile of construction and inspire people to consider a role in this hugely rewarding and thriving sector.

The next time I ask a young person what they want to be when they grow up, I really hope l hear a few quantity surveyors thrown into the mix!

Ashley Dunsmore is an assistant quantity surveyor for Kier Construction Scotland

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