Women in construction: Brooke Sharp discusses building her career

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While most industries are becoming more inclusive it’s clear the construction industry still has some way to go. With just 14% of construction industry professionals being women, we sat down with Brooke Sharp, hire and site accommodation specialist at Cleveland Containers, about her career in construction and the importance of representation in the industry

Born and bred in Stockton-on-Tees, Brooke has a wealth of container experience under her belt, beginning her career in the industry at only 18. Now, at just 25 years old, she’s taking on her next challenge, supporting the launch of Cleveland Containers new construction business division.

We sat down with Brooke to hear all about her career progression, joining during a pandemic and the barriers of entry women face in the construction industry.

What was your route into the industry?

My route was quite an unconventional one! I went to college after achieving my GCSEs, but I didn’t complete my A levels as I wasn’t enjoying my time there. My mum was made aware of a maternity cover role doing sales support for a local container supplier and suggested it to me as a possible option for my next step.

I was successful in my application and was even kept on past my initial temporary contract. I worked on collections, relocations and general sales admin for 18 months until I joined the inbound sales team as a sales executive, looking after incoming calls, website leads and LiveChat enquiries. In my final year there, I became a rehire specialist, managing national customer accounts that had large hire agreements in place.

What does an average day look like and what parts of your role do you enjoy the most?

I look after most of our container hire enquiries, but I also assist with many of our site accommodation requests. Our customers can enquire in several ways including by phone, submitting a website form, sending an email or via our LiveChat platform.

I will always call a customer if they provide a phone number to discuss their needs, which gives me a better understanding of what they’re looking for and what units we have that will suit them. Calling on my former experience, I will then send an official quote on an email and follow up to see if I can further assist or if their requirements have changed.

I like that everybody is trusted to manage their own working day and focus on the jobs they need to do. There is also a lovely atmosphere in the office; we all receive plenty of help and support from each other, and the company directors are out and about which means instant questions can be answered instantly. This makes the key decision-making process much quicker and allows us all to work more efficiently.

When it comes to site accommodation, what audiences or sectors are you servicing?

Requests usually come from construction sites that need portable offices and canteens, but they can also be more varied, such as from small or start-up businesses who haven’t got space in their house or don’t want to rent office space. We receive enquiries from so many different customers and companies, all with varying needs; it’s a bit of a cliché, but no two days are the same!

I’ve had requests for units to be used as extra working space for schools, doctors and vets, canteens for baking businesses and changing rooms for sports clubs. These customers all have storage and site working requirements that we can help with.

With such a variety of competitors, what drew you to the position at Cleveland?

When I heard that Cleveland was launching a new division for site accommodation, I thought it would be a great new challenge for me, especially as the variety of the units is vast; currently, we have a wide range of new units such as 10ft, 20ft and 32ft open-plan offices and canteens, half office/half stores and changing rooms, and we are constantly adding more to the range.

The position is so varied as all units can be customised to fit exactly what the customer needs and we can also install extras such as partition walls, electrics, doors, and windows, too. We also have a constant rotation of used accommodation stock which is helpful for customers who need something immediately or don’t have the budget to purchase a new model.

What are your career aspirations?

My main aim currently is to get settled in and stuck into my new role, with the long-term goal being to help grow the hire and site accommodation division of the business.

As I have worked on container hire for the last six years, I want to look at how to make it easier and quicker to process hire enquiries and orders, bringing in new ideas and using my previous experience to make an impact.

What barriers of entry do you see for women trying to make it in the construction industry and what piece of advice would you give for women who want to get into it?

I’m lucky in the fact that I fell into the industry after leaving college but appreciate that sometimes it can be intimidating for women to enter industries that have in the past been traditionally male-dominated.

Women may feel like they must work harder to prove themselves, but it’s more accepted and common for women to be in the industry, even in more senior positions. More companies are striving to be more diverse and are actively encouraging women to come on board.

My advice would be to remain confident, even in times when you might not feel like it and be willing to constantly learn and adapt. Women do very well and are respected and welcomed a lot more into the industry and it’s great to see young females taking an interest in these lines of work.

Why do you feel it’s important for more women to be encouraged into the building and construction industry?

It’s evident that a lot more women are career driven now. Previously, they might have felt that a career in construction wasn’t attainable or an option for them but now it is, and they can really excel in their roles.

When women enter the construction industry or even any sector that is often viewed as male-dominated, they then become role models for other women, and it shows that there are great opportunities out there.

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