Women In Construction UK Magazine, were interested to find out more about the women working at Homes England and gain insight into their routes into the industry and their role within the agency.
As the government’s housing accelerator, Homes England is a market-focused agency with a talented team working across land, investment and market interventions across England. As a result the agency draws its workforce from a number of fields including investment bankers, land and real estate experts, planners and surveyors and competes directly with the commercial market for talent.
Tamsin Hart Jones, Senior Specialist.
Tamsin is a spare time Hollywood history geek and lover of American road trips.
I always wanted a job where I could make a difference on the ground. My career has completely evolved with Homes England, from being a Graduate Trainee with a predecessor organisation to where I am now, a Senior Specialist in our Land team.
I’m technically a planner, but working at Homes England has really stretched my skill set and I’m involved in many areas of work across our organisation.
I’ve had incredible opportunities to work on complex projects that have made a real difference, including leading on the planning and development of one of the most contaminated sites in Western Europe, The Avenue Coking Works near Chesterfield, and most recently leading on York Central, a site with the potential to deliver 2,500 homes in a place with serious affordability and housing supply challenges, York City Centre.
It’s a bit of a cliché but no two days are the same at York Central. We’ve bought land and worked collaboratively with partners at the Council, Network Rail and the Railway Museum to develop proposals for the site, get outline planning approval and fund the early infrastructure to get into the site.
For the past year and a half I’ve been seconded to the York Central Partnership to lead on the project for all the partner organisations. I’ve been leading on creating a partnership, making sure we stay on track with our challenging timescales and engagement with the community, stakeholders and potential investors and occupiers.
At Homes England one of our core values is diversity and it’s so important to me that we’re serious about ensuring that in everything we do. The construction industry has to change to address the skills challenge it faces, and I believe diversifying and encouraging more women into the industry is critical to this, as well as encouraging other underrepresented groups. Construction has such wide and varied opportunities and it’s incredibly satisfying to see your hard work realised in bricks and mortar.
Eleanor Kinsella, Apprentice Chartered Surveyor
Ellie, aged 20, is a gig and festival enthusiast.
I joined Homes England last September as an Apprentice Chartered Surveyor and attend Birmingham City University one day a week where I’m studying valuations, estate management, relationship management and residential development.
I had secured a place at the University of Sheffield, but the benefits of an apprenticeship far outweighed the draw of the university lifestyle. Apprenticeships are becoming an increasingly well recognised route into the construction industry at a higher education level and I am able to complete my degree debt free, with the added benefit of being surrounded by professionals who are all willing to pass on their expertise.
I’m also earning while I’m learning, but at a less intensive level. After continuous exams over the last four years, to have the opportunity to work alongside studying is a refreshing balance, whilst the work routine develops my work ethic and discipline.
Homes England offers a unique opportunity to work with companies across the industry and provides such a variety of work to get involved in. There is also a moral purpose behind the work that is undertaken here, and I find that very motivating. As a young person, I know my generation will feel the pressures of our national housing shortage, so I’m glad to be playing my part in tackling the housing crisis.
My family have always been very encouraging of my career choices and as a result I have never felt that any opportunities are off limits due to my gender. However, industry perception definitely acts as a barrier to some women and the industry is unmistakeably very male orientated. On my university course for example, there are only four girls in a class of 30.
Engaging with young people much earlier in their career decision making process through school and career fairs would provide an opportunity to highlight careers in construction to girls considering their options and eradicate any misconceptions of the industry.
Lucy Blasdale, Head of Land in the Midlands
Lucy lives in South Shropshire with her husband and two children where she can be often found tending the garden.
I lead Homes England’s land development programme in the Midlands. As a team the work we do is very varied; acquiring sites, securing planning, remediation and infrastructure contracts and site disposal all form part of the day to day.
We have a strong female workforce and I’m proud to lead a team with an even gender balance. But there is still work to be done to ensure we have enough women in key leadership roles. As the agency continues to grow, inspiring the women in our workforce to develop their careers and progress through the organisation is critically important.
I think the industry needs to do more to attract a greater workforce irrespective of gender. There are considerable skills shortages across the sector at every level and we need to encourage the best young talent. We in the sector need to do all we can to promote opportunities and make it a career of choice. I personally undertake public speaking with schools, colleges and universities, which I find really rewarding.
With such a diverse range of roles in the industry it’s vital that we are committed to better promoting these opportunities to make sure we capture a wider pool of talent. For anyone struggling to access opportunities there are some very strong female professional networks in the sector, which create great opportunities for business development and support. The best advice I could give is to get some work experience, no matter where you are in your education, as there is no substitute for experiencing first-hand what the sector has to offer.
Sophie White, General Manager Housing Infrastructure Fund
Sophie, aged 43, is a keen amateur horse women and recent entrant to the world of chicken keeping
As general manager of Infrastructure and complex projects at Homes England I’m responsible for the agency’s Housing Infrastructure Fund.
Working in London for the government’s housing agency is a huge leap from where I started my career with Savills as a rural practice surveyor. I’m a country woman at heart so working in the city was the last thing I expected my career to hold, however, after qualifying, I moved to London and took on roles with Drivers Jonas and later Deloitte Real Estate, specialising in valuation and development.
I married (another Drivers Jonas surveyor!) in 2007 and children followed soon after. As a working mum it’s hard to get the balance right and after two periods of maternity leave, I found myself needing a change. I joined Homes England’s predecessor organisation initially on a secondment into the investment team and loved it so much I moved permanently.
It’s by no means been an easy option and I’ve never worked harder in my life, but what Homes England offers is flexibility and an acceptance of multiple commitments. I make compromises in my personal life to accommodate work, but I also compromise at work to prioritise home life sometimes, and that’s okay.
The breadth of work I’ve been involved in is extraordinary, and the learning curve challenging. I deliver funding structures including grant, loans and equity and have been involved in a number of high profile and complex real estate projects including development finance at East Village and infrastructure funding for Greenwich Peninsula.
We’re a mission led organisation but it’s the how as well as the what, we’re focused on fostering a culture that we can be proud of, one that supports our mission and objectives and encourages us to constantly strive for a more collaborative and positive culture. Our aim is to set a leading example to the industry of growing inclusion and diversity and we are committed to success.