After university, Ciara took a job on reception at Chapel Wharf, Sir Robert McAlpine’s residential development in Salford, Manchester. Just over a year later, she was back working at the same site, on her way to completing her degree as a Quantity Surveyor.
It was quite a journey. The more Ciara learned about the construction industry, the more interested she became. And so, with her affinity for working with numbers, and after speaking to the Commercial Manager on the site, the profession of Quantity Surveyor appealed.
This was a career route she could not have predicted while at school: “I’d never even heard of surveying. But because on reception I would often help out with reviewing accounts and was really included as part of the site team, I absorbed a lot about what everyone was doing, and realised it was something I could be good at.”
Sir Robert McAlpine offered Ciara the chance to do an accelerated degree in Quantity Surveying while she worked, which meant she completed it in three years, rather than the usual five. She says, “I’d already done a degree, so I didn’t feel I was missing out on the Uni experience and just wanted to get on.”
Ciara gained her chartership shortly after finishing her qualification: another whirlwind year, with work on projects spanning healthcare and education, as well as residential developments. She has been involved with Co-Op Academy Bellevue in Manchester and the Friarage Hospital site, Northallerton as well as Chapel Wharf.
Reflecting on her path into the industry, she values the opportunity to blend work with education, “I was gaining real life knowledge that I could link back to what I was learning, and that really brought it to life for me. I would recommend it to anyone, but would say that the accelerated path is quite intense, and maybe even more so if you have not already attended Uni. I was lucky in that I was used to working on assignments and regular deadlines.”
Now a Graduate Quantity Surveyor, day to day, Ciara’s routine is varied and interesting, working both on site and at home (with Podge her English Bulldog!). She’s currently busy with the procurement stage of a project which means meeting and interviewing sub-contractors, but week to week she can also be found working on monthly valuations or commercial reporting for clients.
For Ciara, inclusion means everyone feeling comfortable to be themselves at work, without being self-conscious – like the support she received when joining the industry and sharing her unfounded worries about lacking a construction background.
With seven affinity networks for everyone, including working families, gender equality, LGBTQ+ colleagues and those with disabilities, I feel like if something in someone’s life means they need support, they will be able to find it at Sir Robert McAlpine. There are also lots of really good resources on our internal internet and in the information that is sent around regularly. Office managers do a good job of making sure the messages make it out onto sites as well.
Graduate Quantity Surveyor
If there’s one thing the industry as a whole could do better, she thinks it would be to engage with school and college age learners more, and particularly young women. As Ciara says herself, she did not even know that her current job existed while she was at school, and so participating in job fairs for young people and offering really good, structured work experience – both of which she has been involved with at Sir Robert McAlpine – are something the sector could do more.
As she says, “It’s not enough just to hear about these jobs – young people have to see them.”