A 26-year-old trainee site manager from Exeter is urging schools to do more to encourage women into the construction industry as she sets her sights on a senior role.
Amber Gratton-Davey, of Vistry Group – which includes Vistry Partnerships, Bovis Homes and Linden Homes – says she comes from a family of ambitious women and that there should be more females entering housebuilding.
Amber joined the sector as a customer care coordinator six years ago before switching to build work and she is calling for housebuilding and its variety of career paths to be highlighted to young pupils.
The rising star started on Vistry Partnerships’ Cranbrook location after being sponsored by Vistry for a foundation degree in Construction at City College Plymouth, which she works towards on a part-time basis, and she now aims to become a project manager.
Amber, who is Devon born and bred, said: “I was determined to become a trainee site manager because of the lack of women I had encountered in this role. I come from a family that’s mostly women and they have all worked in what have been typically seen as male roles – we have had an electrician, ground crew member, manufacturing director and police officer in the family and this definitely inspired me to take the step into construction.
“It goes without saying that we need more women in the industry and I think this needs to start with encouragement from a young age. Had it been taught to me in school, perhaps I would have joined sooner. The construction industry is inclusive of all people regardless of what skills they start with.
“There are multiple paths which can be taken to lead you to where you need to be. You can start as a labourer and move up through the ranks as you learn new skills. Or you can attend university and obtain a degree and join the industry as a gradate. I have chosen to work while studying part-time and I find vocational work alongside a degree to be hugely beneficial as you can take your classroom-based knowledge out onto the working site.
“Construction is a huge part of our economy and there will always be a demand for homes and infrastructure, which makes it a great industry to get involved with.”
Amber said site management was all about teamwork and those with a good attitude, who were willing to learn, would find great opportunities in the industry. She added a successful site manager needed to be organised, resilient and empathetic and to consider the environmental impact of the business and practice sustainable solutions.
Amber, who attended Torquay Girls’ Grammar School before moving to Exeter, said site management was completely different to customer service but there were transferrable skills.
“I have been lucky enough to work with some brilliant site managers who have inspired me to step into the role,” she said. “The construction industry is ever-evolving and you learn something new every single day, which is very attractive to me. I want to be constantly learning, adapting and improving and site management is definitely a role that can offer you that.
“Site management is extremely challenging but equally rewarding. Being on the ground gives you the opportunity to see a plot at its foundations all the way through to completion and this offers fantastic job satisfaction.
“I’m proud of being able to use my customer care experience when on site and the face-to-face interaction with home buyers is very rewarding. Customer care has taught me invaluable lessons on how to communicate with customers and to manage expectations – customer satisfaction is what pushes me to do a great job.”
Bradley Davison, managing director of Vistry Partnerships South West, said: “We are delighted with Amber’s progress since she started with us, and she has the ambition and determination to enjoy a long and successful career in housebuilding. Coming from a customer care role, she has great experience to build on and we look forward to supporting her through her Construction foundation degree and beyond. She’s a testament to the skill and drive young people can bring to the industry.”
Stephen Teagle, chief executive at Vistry Partnerships, added: “Amber is an example of the quality of young builders we strive to develop across the Vistry Group. A quarter of all Vistry Partnerships employees are female, which is significantly greater than the current industry average. We are constantly looking to increase this number whilst encouraging more women in a wide variety of disciplines into leadership roles.”