Inspirational Woman: Katie Smith | First female bricklayer at Jelson Homes

Katie Smith

Katie Smith, 30 year old award winning bricklayer from Leicester who is passionate about her job and achieving her goals.

Recently qualifying as Jelson Homes first female bricklayer since establishment over 130 years.

She’s a “lefty” on the trowel and enjoys all aspects of her job. She’s sponsored by Dickies work wear and is their bricklaying spokeswomen, a brand ambassador for FXD and for atg gloves. She spends her free time, usually out and about with friends  or networking for the next opportunity, to make something magic happen.

Tell us a bit about yourself, background and your current role

My name is Katie Smith, I am 30 years old, recently qualified nvq level 2 as a bricklayer, making me Jelson Homes’ first female bricklayer since establishment over 130 years ago. I am currently studying my level 3 in advanced to finish my apprenticeship. I do a block week at college every four weeks and spend the rest of the time on site, building some beautiful homes.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

I’d like to say I planned my career but I didn’t ever imagine things going so crazy I guess! I sat down one day after a lot of failed jobs down to my ADHD. I had spent time on various educational programmes and not one seemed to work for me until I took on a week in construction, which was suggested by my Princes Trust worker, Emma Southern. After spending a couple of days on the bricks, I realised that’s what I needed to do to as I enjoyed it more than anything I had tried in the past. I went home and for months after that, I applied to housing developers, my friend’s companies but it was hard, one dude even asked me if I was calling about my son! I rang Jelson and put myself out there and I eventually got a chance. Since then I did my trial, smashed my exams and have now become there only female bricklayer.
So I’m happy with that and will be forever grateful for them giving me that chance.

Have you faced any challenges along the way?

Facing challenges, ah, we have the odd dinosaur on site who doesn’t like the thought of women being on site, but things get sorted and they soon realise we belong there just as much as they guys. Other than that, my apprenticeships been pretty plain sailing – nice and easy and welcomed by so many others around me, as well as on my site too.

What has been your biggest achievement to date?

My biggest achievement to date I don’t think I can pick one! I received an award for being the best apprentice in the UK, last year but over all it has to be gaining my level 2 in bricklaying, after spending my later years in the care system and not having much education or qualifications behind me.
I noticed a stigma around “care kids”, such as “they don’t get far” and “there all the same”. I didn’t want to fall in that category, so I took it upon myself to ensure I didn’t get lost in the system to then become a “negative statistic”. I wanted more, but I didn’t expect this much more! It’s been great to finally sit down and go – “I did it”.

What one thing do you believe has been a major factor in you achieving success?

Determination and immense support from others. I was determined to show people that no matter your background, race, age, gender or sexuality. If you want to be on site, you can get there. No matter what people say. The support I’ve had from companies, other males and people around me who have followed my story has been a massive factor in it all really.
So thank you everyone – it’s highly appreciated!

How do you feel about mentoring? Have you mentored anyone or are you someone’s mentee?

I’d love to mentor eventually – I think it would be amazing. I haven’t yet mentored myself but I have done a speech for the young children in care for their celebration of achievement award’s night to enable them to see if you want something badly enough. We may have not been in control of our past or present but we do our future and only we can get ourselves there.  I even had a little girl come give me a massive hug and tell me I’m great – probably another achievement I should add really – little cherub. I wish them all the best of luck!

If you could change one thing to accelerate the pace of change for Gender Partity, what would it be?

I think with gender parity, it’ll just have to happen over time. The more we advertise and put stuff out there and the more women become accepted, the more it will even out. I reckon it could take some time but the more we all work together the quicker it can be achieved right?

If you could give one piece of advice to your younger self what would it be?

If I could give my younger self one bit of advice now? It’d be – kid, you should’ve got into construction along time ago! I love my job and I wish I had known about construction a bit more growing up so I could’ve got somewhere maybe just that little bit sooner, but hey, it’s all learning curves.

What is your next challenge and what are you hoping to achieve in the future?

I have a few things I’d like to do in the future – work alongside some organisations to open an enterprise for young adults to enter construction; travel around to see how things are built elsewhere; do some stuff with schools to try help the young ones understand  how good it can be to get a trade under your belt and the opportunity it can bring. I’m not too sure yet, but I know I’ll be on the trowel still for a good while.

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