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“Construction is a really good career choice”

Risk and Compliance Manager Ceri Camilleri began her career as a primary school teacher. Mum-of-two Ceri spent 20 years in teaching before switching careers and entering the world of construction. CITB Wales spoke to Ceri, at our Employer Roadshow in Cardiff, on changing career, transferable skills and the variety of jobs in the construction industry.

After gaining a BA Hons in teacher-training I taught in Manchester, London and Cardiff for 20 years.

Teaching changed a lot over that time. Now it’s more about data collecting and assessing children which, though important, took the enjoyment out of learning for me. Teaching was a vocation, I loved it, but I thought: “I’m not giving my best to the children”. I decided it was time for a change while I was in my early 40s and still young enough to try something new.

My husband is the Managing Director of Camilleri and he offered me an opportunity. I started working one day a week but kept my hand in teaching  a couple of days while I made the transition to construction. I was lucky I could try another career while hanging on to what I’ve known.

I started in risk and compliance. I developed my skill-set then an opportunity came up in our Human Resources (HR) department. I’m used to dealing with people so I thought I could use my skills there.

I meet my former teaching colleagues regularly. They half-jokingly say: ‘Have you got any jobs going?’ I appreciate there’s a nervousness when they ask but the thing is teachers have transferable skills.

Teachers are good at planning, communicating and organising. In my HR role I communicate with the workforce and in risk and compliance I do a lot of training. Part of my job is like taking a lesson: I need to get the message across - but the content is different and the audience is older.

In some ways, as the MD’s wife, I’ve got to prove myself more to avoid the tag of favouritism. I’ve got to earn respect among staff and make people realise I’m good at my job. Respect comes with time.

Part of my job is to promote construction careers. At Camilleri we have young CITB-funded apprentices. I do a lot of Careers Wales events. We target young people, school leavers, college lecturers and sixth-form teachers. We talk about the opportunities on and off site; roles like architecture, HR, risk and compliance, project co-ordinators, finance departments – there are so many jobs in construction that people don’t realise.

When I go to career fairs and give kids the facts and figures on how much, say, a bricklayer or plumber earns, they are interested. You can have a real conversation with them. We say there is NVQ funding available, companies like us who will help young people get on the ladder.

There’s still a stigma around construction. It’s not true that it’s a career for the kids with nothing else to fall back on as some people think; it’s a really good career choice. You can start on site and build yourself up.  My Construction Managers used to be on the tools, but they have worked their way up. They are going to be the best construction managers because they’ve done all aspects of the job themselves.

At Camilleri we’re trying to make it easier for women to come into the industry. In fact we’re looking for female apprentices.

So if you’re interested get in touch, we’d love to hear from you.

To see the wide range of construction opportunities available please click here.