An ex-RAF servicewoman has recently joined the construction team at Norfolk-based Barratt and David Wilson Homes Anglia, and is quashing the stereotypes of women in construction for International Women’s Day (8th March).
Paula Baker (43) previously served in the RAF for 22 years and, in October last year, she joined the leading developer as a Trainee Assistant Site Manager through its Armed Forces Transition Programme.
Paula is now working on Barratt and David Wilson Homes’ Woodland Heath development in Sprowston, supporting the team to maintain its five-star rated customer service by co-ordinating the trades, ordering materials, and delivering regular health and safety checks.
Paula said: “I have always been interested in construction, but never thought that I would have this opportunity. When I found out about the transition programme, I was immediately drawn to the role.
“Naturally, I was apprehensive at the start with no official construction knowledge, but once I looked further into the site manager’s role, having the opportunity to gain technical knowledge on site while undertaking an industry-recognised qualification was a huge attraction to me, as was the opportunity to forge a new career within a reputable company.
“The transferrable skills I learnt in the RAF gave me the confidence to apply for the job and, since joining the housebuilding industry, my confidence has grown much quicker than what I thought it would.”
During her time in the RAF, Paula worked in several VIP hospitality roles, from serving at the Prime Minister’s country estate, to undertaking cabin crew duties looking after members of the Royal Family and parliamentary dignitaries at RAF Northolt.
Her time in the forces was concluded at RAF Marham, where she was the organiser and maître d’ for two luncheons for Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II.
Paula received the Operational Service Medal for Afghanistan while working on Numbers 30 and 32 (The Royal) Squadrons, and she was also awarded a Medal for Long Service and Good Conduct, both the Queen’s Diamond and Platinum Jubilee medals.
Paula said: “Since joining the construction industry, the team at Barratt and David Wilson Homes have shown their complete support towards me, and I know that would be the same for any woman who joins the business in construction or within the trades.
“The transition programme is fantastic, and it has given me the opportunity to kickstart my career in the construction industry, providing me with my second profession after 22 years’ service in the Royal Air Force.”
Paula believes the housing developer is helping to combat industry-wide barriers for women in construction, by promoting an inclusive environment and providing more opportunities for women to join.
She continued: “Upon starting my new role, I was quickly able to overcome an initial fear I had about being a woman in the industry and on site with the trades. The team welcomed me and put me at ease right from the start, and made me realise it was something I should never have been concerned about prior to starting.
“There are still barriers within the trade side of the industry which need to be challenged, but it’s clear to see that Barratt and David Wilson Homes is changing that perception by investing in and challenging those barriers.
“The skill sets women can bring to the industry is key for driving it forward, such as having an eye for detail to enhance the finished standards. There are also soft skills, like subtly being able to align partnership, so all groups work cohesively, meeting target pressures and resolving problems quickly.
“You can see the shift in perception happening throughout the company starting at the top. Everyone I have come across is supportive, respectful and enthusiastic about dispersing the myth that construction is an industry just for men.”
Paula is encouraging more women and graduates to consider a career in construction.
She said: “My advice would be – ‘do it!’ I’m thoroughly enjoying my new role as a Trainee Assistant Site Manager.
“You are outside in all-weather conditions, but it is rewarding when you move customers into their dream home which you have been a part of. It is hard work at times, but I love the challenge of planning the build schedule. Every day is different, and I thrive on this.
“Don’t be put off with negative perceptions of women working in construction. Despite these barriers, women continue to build their path in the industry; be part of the next chapter and generation that bridges the diversity gap for women in the industry.”
For more information about the career opportunities available at Barratt and David Wilson Homes, visit www.barrattcareers.co.uk.
To find out more about the new homes being built at Woodland Heath, call the Barratt Homes sales team on 03301 735 749, or the David Wilson Homes team on 03308 187 788.