Comment: The importance of building a sustainable future

Tait says she is rarely in the office and the variety of work is both fun and constant. Picture: Contributed.
Tait says she is rarely in the office and the variety of work is both fun and constant. Picture: Contributed.
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It’s hard to imagine that reviewing tree root protection plans or land remediation strategies as part of a construction job, but this is indeed part of my varied role as an environmental ­adviser at Kier.

I’ve always liked being outdoors and a week of office life during my high school work experience confirmed for me that I did not want an ordinary desk job. At university I picked environmental ­management because I had loved geography at school, but I wasn’t really sure what it would lead to.

I fancied working in the built environment and after I finished my degree I sent my CV off to many companies. Kier ­Construction Scotland offered me a ­permanent position, which included being part of its three-year graduate scheme. I haven’t looked back. Joining the construction industry has certainly given me more than I bargained for!

As part of Kier’s graduate scheme, I’ve been able to experience working in other areas of the group and I’ve also learned new skills, such as undertaking dormouse surveys. I’ve taken part in professional development courses, plus I’ve worked with local charities and third sector organisations, such as Community Wood Recycling which collects and reuses wood waste in environmentally-friendly ways.

What’s more, Kier has paid for my professional training at the Institute of Environmental Management & Assessment where I recently passed my practitioner exam.

My day-to-day role involves ensuring ­every project has a sound environmental plan in place. I cover the whole of Scotland and the north east of England, from ­Middlesbrough to Orkney.

During the project pre-construction phase, I review client site investigations and ecological surveys. I also advise on mitigation measures, waste minimisation techniques, silt management, and help implement site-specific environmental plans. Once we are in the construction phase, I regularly inspect our sites to ensure we are compliant.

The construction industry is seeing ­sustainability become increasingly important to clients and its end user. Kier has various targets to reduce energy consumption, waste and water and to enhance the environment around the projects in which we build. Being part of these new initiatives and involved in implementing best practice is something I love about my job.

I’m rarely in the office and the variety of work is both fun and constant. I’ve ­developed a children’s environment ­activity booklet, which won two Green Apple Awards and have taken part in a Stem (science, technology, engineering, and maths) project with schools.

But I am one of the lucky ones who stumbled into this exciting career. Unfortunately, construction has a perception issue and most people wrongly think it is all about men ­wearing hard hats. As a young female, I have found it welcoming and rewarding.

The type of jobs on offer are varied – from working outside on site, to managing ecology or health and safety, designing buildings, and even developing new materials. We need engineers, scientists, environmental managers, robotics specialists and craftspeople, to name just a few. The great thing is that there are so many ways to start a career in construction through apprenticeships, foundation degrees and graduate schemes.

We still have more work to do to show ­women and young people generally that ­construction provides limitless opportunities and offers a rewarding and fulfilling career.

It’s something I hope to see communicated more within schools and via career advisors. As part of their Shaping Your World initiative, Kier has pledged 1 per cent of its workforce to act as school career ambassadors to increase the profile of construction. I hope this helps young people open their eyes to the diverse and exciting world of work waiting for them.

Clare Tait is environmental advisor for Kier Construction Scotland.