Closing the Gap: Getting Women into Construction

With women currently representing only 11 per cent of the construction workforce, Procure Plus takes an active role in ensuring better gender equality and gives women the opportunity to build a career in this lifelong industry.

Working with Oldham-based Emanuel Whittaker, Procure Plus has supported the contractor to create 32 apprenticeships over the past five years, including for local resident, Katie Lockwood.

What Katie Did


In 2006, Emanuel Whittaker was chosen for the Procure Plus framework to complete a variety of projects across the North West. Both were aware of the lack of female workers in construction and agreed it was something they wanted to change. To encourage more women into the trades, they decided to offer tailored education and training via apprenticeships.

 In February 2008, Katie – a 16 year old with no qualifications – was offered an entry level role at Emanuel Whittaker, working on projects through Procure Plus. Katie got stuck into her new role from day one and was set to begin a Level 2 apprenticeship in Brickwork in September 2008. However, Katie then discovered she was to become a mum, and decided to put her studies on hold.

What Katie Did Next

What Katie did next (V1) PH 18.02.2015

As a young mum, the thought of balancing an apprenticeship with raising a child was daunting. But Katie was a brilliant apprentice and neither Procure Plus nor Emanuel Whittaker wanted to lose her. To make sure she was able to carry on learning her trade, Procure Plus and Emanuel Whittaker helped put the support in place that Katie needed to succeed.

A year later, in September 2009, Katie took up the Level 2 Brickwork apprenticeship at Oldham College. Like all the apprentices supported by Procure Plus, Katie was given a toolkit to help with her practical work and was supported so she could gain the experience and skills she needed to succeed.

In February 2011, Katie became a mum for the second time, but didn’t want to delay her studies. She continued to go to college during her maternity leave and, incredibly, managed to complete her key skills and Level 2 qualification by June the same year.

Spurred on by her success, and confident she could balance raising her young family while working, Katie enrolled for her Level 3 apprenticeship in Brickwork in September 2011.

When working on her Level 3, Katie realised she’d be able to do more work at Emanuel Whittaker if she was able to drive. To help her reach her goal, Procure Plus gave Katie vouchers for driving lessons and supported her in passing her test. By July 2012, a lot of hard work saw Katie sail through her Level 3 qualification and pass her driving test.

After finishing her Level 3 Brickwork, Katie didn’t want to stop there. She set her sights on a Higher National Diploma (HND), but the qualifications she’d already achieved didn’t give her direct access. Instead, Lee Bradbury, Emanuel Whittaker’s Health, Safety & Environment Manager, helped Katie identify the National Certificate (ONC) in Construction and the Built Environment course, as a bridging qualification that would help her progress onto a two-year, HND.

In September 2013, Salford City College launched their pilot Higher Level Apprenticeship in Construction Management with funding provided by the UK Commission’s Employer Ownership of Skills programme and Katie, with the support of Procure Plus and Emanuel Whittaker, became one of the first Higher Apprentices in Greater Manchester. Successful completion of the course will see Katie gain both a HND in Construction and the Built Environment and an NVQ level 5 Diploma in Construction Management.

In recognition of Katie’s progress, in January 2014, Emanuel Whittaker promoted Katie to site supervisor – a role which allows her to demonstrate the skills required by the NVQ element of her course.

What Katie’s Doing Now

What Katie is doing now (V1) PH 18.02.2015

Katie has been an ambassador for Emanuel Whittaker and the construction industry and regularly shares her experiences with other young people, encouraging them to consider an apprenticeship and a career in construction.

Katie has made huge achievements success on her Higher Apprenticeship course and has received a distinction for her Environmental Impact assignment. She is quickly building up her knowledge, and is striving to become a site manager at Emanuel Whitaker – an ambition she’s sure to achieve.

Lee said: “Working with Procure Plus has enabled us to make a really positive difference in Katie’s life, and she’s proving a true asset to the business. She’s gone from strength to strength in her studies and is working hard to reach her goals.

“Katie is just one of 32 apprentices we’ve employed over the past five years as part of the Procure Plus frameworks, and it’s thanks to the support we receive from Procure Plus that we have been able to build strong relationships with our local colleges, and can offer a regular and effective apprenticeship programme.”

4 thoughts to “Closing the Gap: Getting Women into Construction”

  1. I think the introduction of more women to the construction industry can only be a good thing all round. I think that the more the construction industry is promoted to schools this figure is only going to rise!

      1. Absolutely! the way men and women conduct business and communicate is different. This enables more and more varied types of engagement to become available on site and in the office environment. it provides more options for conflict resolution and more comprehensive outlook for future planning of tasks, projects and plans that is more inclusive and holistic, therefore more robust and minimised risks.

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