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Kirstein's blueprint: paving the way for women in construction

Customer Stories Kirstein

For a Community to succeed, it must work for everyone. We recently sat down with Kirstein Forrest, a pioneer in the field of construction and a passionate advocate for women in traditionally male-dominated sectors, to delve into her groundbreaking efforts in advancing women's participation in construction.

With 20 years of experience as a Quantity Surveyor, we asked Kirstein to reflect on her experiences entering the sector. 

“When I was studying for my Highers at school and looking at university courses, I didn’t know what I wanted to do. I enjoyed maths, geography and graphic design and had an interest in buildings and architecture so was keen to see if I could combine my interests and skills into a potential career. When I was in the 6th Year, I went to a careers event at Glasgow Caledonian University to get more of an idea of potential further education courses and careers that might be good options for me. After finding out more about the role, Quantity Surveying seemed like the natural choice for me.

“I studied for a four-year course, with the second year focused on gaining industry experience through a work experience placement at Kier. This was an amazing experience that really cemented my understanding of the role and reaffirmed that I had made the right choice. Following my second year, I was able to remain working with Kier in a part-time capacity, working flexibly around lectures, gaining essential and hands-on work experience.”

With her First-Class Honours degree in hand, Kirstein didn't slow down. Instead, she dove deeper into the world of construction, spending an additional five years at Kier. Kirstein shared her perspective on this pivotal time in her career:

“Thanks to all of the experience I had gained whilst at university, I was offered a job at Kier. The team were always incredibly supportive and patient and encouraged me to continue developing my skills on the job. During my time at Kier, I worked on a huge range of projects, encompassing everything from health centres and hotels to schools and factories. Providing further opportunities for me to expand my knowledge, I then worked for Sir Robert McAlpine on projects that included offices, a theatre and a college campus in Glasgow city centre.”

Bringing her extensive experience with her, Kirstein joined the Places for People team in 2016, where she oversees a variety of residential and mixed-use projects.  

“Working at Places for People, it is always about more than just building houses. Everything we do is rooted in developing Communities and providing a wide range of homes suitable to a variety of people and families. As a social enterprise, the company’s ethos is all about driving social value and that is reflected as our profits are reinvested into delivering affordable housing.

 “When I first attended that careers event, a career in construction wasn’t something I had considered as I didn’t know how much variety there is. I think that a lot of people don’t realise the range of roles available in the construction sector, but I would encourage people to do a bit of research to see the extent of everything that is on offer. Each job is very different, but incredibly rewarding and the people I’ve met are brilliant. There is currently an overall skill shortage in the construction sector, particularly amongst the under 35’s, and this means that there is huge potential for anyone looking for opportunities to progress.

“The construction industry is still a male-dominated industry, but I don’t think that anyone should be put off because of their gender. Everyone that I have met has been incredibly supportive and encouraging. Places for People is an incredibly inclusive place to work, and I think it is fantastic that we are looking to promote the benefits of construction roles to a diverse group of people.”

Places for People have recently partnered with Women into Construction as part of a commitment to establishing a diverse and inclusive workforce. Through this partnership, we will be able to identify where additional staff are needed and will host roadshows to attract potential female candidates in the area. Additional emphasis will also be placed on professional skills training, ensuring the sector is accessible for a wide range of women, from school and college leavers to those considering a career change or returning to work after a break. 

Read more heart-warming stories from our Customers and People

We hope you found this story inspirational. If you would like to read more stories from around the Places for People organisation, check out more of our In My Own Words stories.  

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