Our Builders’ Talk spotlight falls on Builders’ Talk Group member Becca Parnham, here she shares her story of how she got into bricklaying….
I first decided that I wanted to be a bricklayer after travelling to Kenya back in 2012 to build classrooms at a school in Mombasa. It was a project run through my school, to help build a school out there called Inspiration School, which would give children more opportunities through education. I was fairly naughty at school and didn’t really appreciate what I had so my mum and dad looked into the project and thought it would be good for me to go and experience. It suited me very well because I love to travel and I’m very hands on and hyperactive. I spent two weeks at the school helping with the building work and then got to go on safari for a week.
The experience was both physically and mentally challenging but also really rewarding – when I come home I did a year of A levels but realised it wasn’t what I wanted to do so I found myself a bricklaying apprenticeship with Carillion. Their college was fairly local to me and as I had a 125cc motorbike the commute wasn’t too bad.
When I first started on site I broke my arm and was in plaster so I got it quite easy compared to the other apprentices. I didn’t have to do any loading out was just put on the line so I picked things up quicker than most of the other apprentices and got more of my evidence together.
How I got started:
I did my level 1 and got on to level 2 but quit, as I wasn’t sure I wanted to carry it on. A year later, realising this was actually what I wanted to do, I re-applied and was lucky enough to be accepted back on to the course to finish my level 2 – which I have completed. During this time I worked on both big sites and private jobs – I really liked the private work as I learnt loads of different skills as well as bricklaying.
Working on site was definitely where I learnt most and gained the most confidence and experience on the trowel. I worked in a gang of 10 including labourers and of course I was the only woman so I got a lot of banter, the lads were constantly asking questions, which made it even better for me as I fitted in straight away. Since being qualified I’ve been doing private jobs on my own and also working with my brother. I have now started up my own business – Build them like Becca. The work I’m doing at the moment is small private jobs but I hope to expand as time goes on.
Funniest moments on site:
During the summer we had a massive heat wave and as lads do they all took their tops off whilst working, I was feeling the heat just as much as them so I thought why not and took my top of as well chucked my hi-vis back on and carried on working. As you would expect the majority of the other trades came to a stand still. They couldn’t believe I took my top off and was working in my bra and shorts. 2 days later a plumber I didn’t know came up to me and showed me a photo, asking if this was me working without my top on! Apparently it had been sent round most of the site.
We all know how you get a special treat when it’s your birthday on site, well on my 18th birthday I got cable tied to the scaffolding and had a muck bin full of water tipped over me – it was not warm, my birthday is in January.
When it comes to banter you have to be very thick skinned, which I am. I absolutely love the site banter – it made my time on site a lot more fun – it’s all part and parcel of it. A lot of people didn’t think I would stick it out on site but I just enjoyed proving everyone wrong showing them that women can do any job regardless of the stereotype that it’s a man’s job.
Thanks for sharing your story Becca, sounds like you get the same treatment on site as anyone else!!!