Emily Burridge works as a Concrete Technician Production Manager, after completing a 3 year Foundation course, managing 4 employees and 24 concrete plants in the West Midlands. She is one of only four women to go through the Hanson LEAD Programme, which trains the apprentices up to become managers within their fields.
Has the construction industry always been of interest to you?
When I was a child I always loved making things. As I got older and progressed through the educational system I went from wanting to be a vet (because of my love of dogs), to a lawyer (because I saw they made a lot of money), to a graphic designer (because I loved making things and thinking outside the box) during my A-levels but I never considered the construction industry until I saw the opportunity. However, now I’m part of it, I’ve realised that it fits in better than I would have ever expected. I get to create things and come up with new ideas to make changes, but there is also a great balance of office work and being out on site in the fresh air.
Tell us a bit about the LEAD programme with Hanson. What most appealed to you about the course?
The LEAD programme is a higher apprenticeship delivered in partnership with the University of Derby whereby the apprentices are learning via long distance and completing coursework to earn a foundation degree in mineral extractives technology alongside a placement either within a quarry, a cement plant, the concrete technical department, or asphalt production. The course appealed in that it still offers a university education yet you’re being paid a wage at the same time and gaining valuable experience within the industry.
What does a day in the life of a Concrete Technician Production Manager consist of?
Every day I go to work is different, I never know what to expect but that’s what I love more than anything. To have the freedom to plan my own day and go where I want to visit site or customers is empowering and something I value. My role is to maintain the quality control over 25 concrete plants in the West Midlands and also manage four members of staff who regularly sample and test concrete delivered to site. The role means that I have worked on important projects in the three years I have worked in the company, I can now drive past, or in some case over, these structures knowing that I helped to make it happen which is an incredible feeling.
How do people react when you tell them your job role?
The funniest reactions come from the hairdressers I’ve visited over the years, of course they always chat with you and ask what you do but when I tell them I work in concrete they just freeze and assume they didn’t hear me correctly, apparently I don’t look like the type to working in that field. My family and friends are very supportive though and are surprised at the opportunities open to me as I have progressed though the company.
How does it feel to be one of only four females to have gone through the Hanson LEAD Programme?
. Women aren’t common in the industry yet, but the company is becoming more diverse, as a result everyone you meet is accepting and helpful and they’re never surprised. In their eyes you’re just another keen youngster looking to establish a career in the industry. I hardly see the other female LEAD trainees in person, but all the apprentices stay in contact as we know how important it is to support and help one another through the scheme no matter the gender.
What was your experience like?
I loved being part of the LEAD programme and I had some experiences that I will never forget, not many people can say they helped to load explosives into a rock face or got to drive a train! The people I have met along the way both and university and the business have been brilliant and have shared a huge amount of knowledge with me. The best thing about the opportunity though was that it made me who I am today, I more confident and dare I say intelligent person who is not afraid to admit their mistakes and who will work tirelessly to fix it, also I can now do early mornings which is a big change from my college days.
Women working within construction is becoming more common, but do you think there is still some kind of stigma or misconception preventing more women from joining the industry?
There’s definitely a misconception around the construction industry when it comes to being a suitable place for women to work. Most people hear construction and think of it as a male dominated industry, but within Hanson the atmosphere is so supportive, and our sites are friendly to all genders. We also offer positions other than on the front lines of production for people who don’t want to work outside, we have our own HR, It and finance departments as well as a central call customer service centre in Syston.
What is the most awe-inspiring aspect of your job?
The most awe-inspiring aspect of my job is the ability to work from anywhere and to have the flexibility to influence the entire construction industry with new initiatives which leads to huge architectural achievements for our customers. It’s an incredible feel to be able to walk past a structure and know that one of the reasons why it’s there today was because of the work you did. Also, as part of my earlier apprenticeship I had the chance to get involved in some unique opportunities like flying a drone which not everyone can say is part of their everyday job.
If you could put your name on any construction project in the world, which would you pick and why?
I don’t think that the construction projects define you or your work, but I think some of the most important projects are those that are done for charity. Anywhere that the project will make a difference to those in need would be a main focus not just for me but our company as a whole.
Do you have any advice for young people thinking about a career in construction?
As a young person going into the construction industry I would recommend that you make the most of the wealth of experience in the industry and ask as many questions as you can to help expand your knowledge. Most importantly though, don’t let anything stop you from making changes and improvements that can help move the industry forward, just make sure you’ve thought it out first.