I enjoyed the Rio Olympics but they weren’t a patch on ours back in 2012.
I’m definitely biased though – as an East Londoner, I was thrilled when we won the Olympic bid. It brought the prospect of a world class sporting event (and massive street party) to my doorstep.
What I didn’t realise was that it would also bring much-needed regeneration to my area which would be life-changing for so many, including me.
As a teenager I trained as a carpenter and worked on a number of sites across London before setting up my own business. I love the innovative side of construction, having the opportunity to create something useful, visible and tangible that will remain for years after I am gone. I love being able to say, “See that building? I was part of the making of that.”
When I began teaching carpentry at a college in north London, I learned how few women were entering the industry and for those who did, how difficult it was to get ahead.
The Olympic Delivery Authority (ODA) wanted to do things differently and leave a legacy for this particularly deprived area of East London. One of its initiatives was the Women into Construction project, aimed at supporting women wanting to enter the construction industry. As soon as I found out about it, I applied for a position.
Funded by CITB and the London Development Agency (LDA), our purpose was to provide a holistic approach to encourage women into the industry and broker opportunities for them.
With the full support of the ODA, contractors were willing to do things differently and with this active intervention, women were soon working on all areas of the Olympic site.
It was amazing to watch the change in culture on site. There were more than double the usual numbers of women on site and although still in the minority, they were accepted, encouraged and supported.
I worked with so many talented and determined women who were delighted to have the opportunity to be part of this iconic build, including Annika, a former student of mine. Annika had become pregnant towards the end of her L2 Carpentry qualification and despite my full support, decided to leave without completing the course.
Three years on and a single mother of two, she heard about Women into Construction and decided to finish her studies. Annika commenced work at the Athlete’s Village, working there before and after the games, developing her skills and gaining her full qualification.
Four years later, Annika works as a shuttering carpenter on several large sites across London. She’s proud of her achievements and loves telling her kids, ‘Mummy worked on the Olympic site’.
The project has continued to develop across London and Annika is just one of 600 women we’ve placed at iconic sites like the Shard and Crossrail.
Women into Construction now operates across London as an independent, not-for-profit organisation. With a tiny staff of just two and a half roles, we have advised over 1700 women and trained over 1200.
We’ve supported 300 into work placements and helped 600 gain sustainable, paid employment – a legacy of the London 2012 Games.
To talk to Kath about Women into Construction, please email firstname.lastname@example.org