Attending an Open Doors event in Bracknell: Guest blog by our Disability and Wellbeing Administrator, Phoebe Hughes

Each year, construction sites across the UK are opened to the public as part of Open Doors week – an initiative designed to encourage people to learn more about the industry and see such workplaces up close.

Our intrepid Disability and Wellbeing Administrator, Phoebe Hughes decided to take part in an Open Doors experience herself and here, she describes her day on-site and how the initiative is part of a strategy to widen participation in construction…

It is widely acknowledged that the UK construction industry does not contain a particularly diverse workforce. A report by RICS and EY in 2016 found that the industry comprised around 13% women, 1.2% Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) people, and less than 1% with a disclosed disability. There are also other minority groups for which data has not been collected.

Open Doors is one initiative designed to help improve these figures. By opening construction sites across the country, members of the public can get a look at developments in their local area and gain a unique insight into the industry. This year, Open Doors week ran from 18-23 March.

I visited Brakenhale School in Bracknell – an 11-19 mixed comprehensive school currently under development by Wates – for an hour-long tour. Set to be completed in 2020, most of the buildings on the site are being demolished and rebuilt or renovated. When I arrived at the site, we were given a brief talk about the project to provide some context. We then donned full PPE (personal protective equipment) and were led by the Site Manager around the school. There were opportunities to ask questions throughout the visit with questions big and small encouraged by the hosts. There was a wide range of people at the event from representatives from other construction firms, college students looking for their next step and university students hoping to see how their course content plays out in real life.

Reflections

Ahead of visiting Brakenhale, my perception of the construction industry was of a workplace which is ‘rough and ready’ but the site was a lot tidier than I expected and everything was very organised. It felt like being in an office environment and didn’t feel like a hectic workplace at all. Some students joined me too and they were given a more detailed, academic overview of what is going on at Brakenhale.

Despite being impressed by what I saw, working in the industry isn’t quite right for me but I think it would appeal to people who like working outdoors and getting stuck in.

I got the impression that working in the construction industry would be very varied and you would do different things each day. Wates include the school in what they are doing by hosting tours for classes and the workers have factored in their neighbours by enforcing no shouting or swearing on-site so as not to disturb the students or teachers.

I would highly recommend anyone with an interest in the construction sector visit an Open Doors site to get a holistic view of the industry. The days give an insight into the day-to-day workings of a site and allow people to see how they can fit into the industry.

If you would like any advice or guidance about a career in the construction industry, please contact our Careers and Employability Advisor, Bridget Wells on careers@ucem.ac.uk