According to the Chartered Institute of Building (CIOB) (2023), women represent only 15% of the construction workforce. At the same time, the construction industry is facing a skills shortage suggesting that this crucial source of talent is being under-utilised.
Dedicated to addressing this unequal gender balance and providing women with a route into the construction industry, Coleg Gwent – one of Wales’ largest and top-performing higher education colleges – has been working in collaboration with the City & Guilds Foundation to provide funded places on a women-only construction course.
The course has been designed to not only offer women a potential career change and a stepping-stone into the industry but also to help women develop confidence and skills in household maintenance. In a period of financial instability, developing competence and independence in carrying out household maintenance and improvements could prove particularly beneficial for many women and families.
Twenty one women have so far received bursary funding for the 12-week course. It’s aim is to tackle barriers to learning through part-time delivery on weekday evenings, thus catering for a range of circumstances, and by providing an environment in which women are not discouraged from developing the necessary skills to enter the sector. As Sarah Jones, Head of Construction, explains:
“The women-only course puts women at ease, provides them with a friendly environment and makes them feel comfortable asking any questions they want to without feeling inferior.”
Covering a range of essential skills, including bricklaying, carpentry, decorating, painting, plastering and plumbing, the course aims to introduce women to a wide range of construction trades, facilitating progression to additional accredited training in their chosen trade. One learner summed up what she had learnt as “… hanging a door, plumbing joints – all if it. [I] loved it. Loved it all. Want to do more.” With another learner summing up the best thing about the course as “gaining [the] confidence to have a go at DIY at home.”
The course has proved extremely popular and has been oversubscribed since its introduction, with Jones explaining that the College will be delivering the course twice for the new term to meet increasing demand. With the Foundation bursaries also removing financial barriers to the programme, even more women have been able to access this valuable opportunity.
Polly Rowe from the City & Guilds Foundation explains:
‘When Coleg Gwent told us about this programme we knew that there was a real opportunity to support the women to develop skills in, what is typically, a male dominated sector. The hope is that the course acts as a route in to further construction employment, education or training, and we’ll be working with Coleg Gwent to track this impact long term.’
Find out more about the range of construction courses available at Coleg Gwent here.