Tracy McLeod BSc (Hons) C.Build E MCABE Project Manager for Jhai Building Control
Have you always had an interest in the construction industry?
I took on a role in asbestos management mainly by chance, many years ago, I knew then that the construction industry was for me. Not long after starting the position I enrolled at college and gained a distinction in a Construction HNC and continued to study further and gained an upper 2:1 degree in Building Surveying – I’ve never looked back.
What challenges did you face as a woman in this industry?
My main challenges in the industry were juggling work and study whilst raising three children alone, especially as two of whom are mentally disabled. It has not been easy, but it has been worthwhile achieving my goal, my perseverance paid off.
What are the current challenges of your role?
In the industry, there are still those of the mindset that construction should remain male dominated, however, they are few and far between. Some clients are pleasantly surprised if a female Building Control Officer turns up to site. I also suffer from ADHD which can be quite challenging in the workplace. As this is a “hidden” condition most people do not see a disability. For the first time in my career I was honest at the interview stage and advised of my condition which has helped massively. I now have support whereas previously I didn’t as I was too embarrassed to talk about it.
What inspires you in your work?
Luckily for me I have trained with some incredibly knowledgeable people; they inspire me. My role is inspiring, it’s a pleasure to work with some great developers on some fabulous projects, I have a great sense of pride knowing I have had an input on some amazing buildings.
What advice would you give your 20-year-old self?
At that time, my focus was trying to be the best mother I could be. My goals and focus changed as a first-time mother so I decided to study to ensure I could provide for my son through a career.
I would advise my 20-year-old self to acknowledge my skills, focus on a goal and to get back up when life gets you down, always do your best and stay positive.
What challenges do you foresee the industry facing?
The main challenges of the industry right now are changes to legislation. Learning from past mistakes and moving forward with a different mindset is a priority. The tragedy of Grenfell has highlighted that more has to be done to protect people and their homes by constructing safer homes and buildings. The skills shortage affecting the whole industry is a huge problem and building control is suffering with an aging pool of professionals and not enough investment in training. That is one huge benefit of Jhai as they have a great training programme to bring in new professionals.
How do you think these will be addressed?
New Legislation will define responsibilities for professionals in the industry. The ‘golden thread’ which is discussed in Dame Judith Hackitt’s consultation allows a more comprehensive approach for projects and can also define accountability when needed. Changes to behaviour and mindset of the industry are musts, the focus needs to steer away from profitability and onto the safety of people.
I think the skills shortage could be improved with more involvement at secondary school level to remove stigma of joining the construction industry as a career choice for both girls and boys. It has long been a seen as a “make do” career rather than something to aspire to. I think more understanding at an early age of what the full range of professions within the industry are and how they are open to everyone would see an increase in young people choosing a career in construction.