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Get a life, get a career in construction: We need to show kids there’s more to life than TikTok – Carlene Brooks, Scaffolder

Carleen Brooks

Carlene Brooks is a scaffolder, previously having worked for Mattison Scaffolding. Before this she trained with Brogan Group, working on the Sky Garden at 20 Fenchurch Street in the City of London as part of a scheme with Land Securities. Carlene was selected as the 2014 Highest Achiever at their London Employment Awards.

Carleen Brooks
Carleen Brooks

“My favourite part of scaffolding is the different projects I work on, so projects like the Sky Garden (otherwise known as the Walkie Talkie) and the Guildhall in London. I loved working in different places, places that you wouldn’t usually go. I also love the people that you come across in the different trades as well.”

Getting qualified

When we last spoke, I was doing my Part One Construction Industry Scaffolders Record Scheme ticket and since then I’ve done my part two scaffolding course.

Before my scaffolding career I was doing admin for a local housing council housing association, in a tenant management organisation – in some circumstances, councils will delegate their responsibility for tenants to a third-party organisation. Before that, I also worked in car rental for about two years and I got to test out all the latest cars! I’d worked for the Royal Mail as a postwoman for a while too.

Carleen BrooksWhen I was doing my training I was working towards what are called ‘tickets’. I was at Brogan Group at the time I was doing my Part One, which meant two weeks in a training centre. We did our practical work in teams with our instructor. We also had written exams.

I finally did my Part Two in July last year. Once I’ve gone on and done my final assessment, I’ll be a qualified scaffolder. Lockdown has put a spanner in the works for finishing that at the moment though.

Construction careers – the best bits

My favourite part of scaffolding is the different projects I work on, so projects like the Sky Garden (otherwise known as the Walkie Talkie) and the Guildhall in London. I loved working in different places, places that you wouldn’t usually go. I also love the people that you come across in the different trades as well.

When I’m on site I’m always asking people in the other trades: “What does that do?” I’m chatting with glass fitters and the electricians to learn about their work. I love seeing things getting done and changing day in day out. Every day you’re there something new has been completed. It was lovely seeing the progress. They also invited a few of us to the opening night at the Sky Garden too, which I’ll never forget!

Spreading the word

I often get asked about construction careers by women of my own age but I think it’s more a case of needing to speak with secondary school age people. When I was at school and you had your careers day, the focus was more about being doctors, lawyers, and things like that. I remember being told about careers in the Royal Navy but careers in construction were never brought to our attention.

We need to speak with kids. We need to show them there’s more to life than TikTok and encourage them to think about more different career options! I suppose doing articles like this is another good way to do that too.

Carleen BrooksSince I started in construction in 2014 the companies who have employed me have done their utmost best to make provisions for me and other tradeswomen. So, the changing rooms, lockers and welfare facilities in general have been great in my experience.

A proper fit

I did a photoshoot for Dr. Martens through Womanthology back in 2018. It was another platform for putting women in the limelight in construction, which was quite awesome. It was also exciting to see such a well-known brand entering the market. It signalled that something has changed for the better, that it’s not right for women to be expected to wear ill-fitting (and sometimes downright dangerous) PPE (personal protective equipment) designed to fit men.

Spending the second lockdown wisely

Coming up I definitely want to finish my scaffolding qualifications completely. After that, I’m not too sure whether I want to be on the tools or to spend more time in an office (now I’m a wee bit older!). I’m thinking about construction management or civil engineering but I’m still exploring my options. Lockdown mark two is giving me lots of time to think about my plans for the future so watch this space…

 

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