National Inclusion Week: “The number of women working on projects has increased since I started and this visibility really makes a difference", says Ella Mills, Assistant Planner.
Ella never planned on pursuing a career in construction. But after doing a week’s work experience with Sir Robert McAlpine during her GCSEs, she was sold.
“I absolutely loved it. Everyone I worked with was so friendly, and the work was fascinating. What’s funny is my dad actually works in construction, and I had never considered following in his footsteps until then!”
Not being drawn to full time university, after her A-Levels Ella decided to pursue a Planning Apprenticeship with Sir Robert McAlpine, an avenue that saw her attend London’s Southbank University part time, studying a degree in Construction Management. This was five years ago, and she’s been with the business ever since.
“The apprenticeship gave me the flexibility to go to university while also having what is essentially a full-time job. The whole experience was immeasurably valuable, I can’t recommend it enough, your university degree is paid for and you’re getting work experience at the same time, which you usually can’t get much of before your degree is completed.”
Now an Assistant Planner, Ella is working on Sir Robert McAlpine’s One Broadgate project in London. She describes planning as the glue keeping the project together, developing programmes and look-aheads detailing what will be happening on site in the coming days and weeks, keeping everyone updated on progress.
“It’s really different from my last project which was a private hospital and has stood out to me because it’s not only a massive project in terms of size, but it’s also a project that a lot of women are playing a key role in.”
Whilst conscious there are others in the sector who haven’t been as lucky, Ella is happy to share that she hasn’t faced any discrimination or felt intimidated as part of what is still a largely male-dominated industry, something she credits Sir Robert McAlpine for.
“The number of women working on projects with me has only increased since I started, and this visibility really makes a difference. I think the firm has made a real effort to make sure women feel seen and heard, it makes it so much easier to speak up about any issues you’re facing when you’re in a room where you feel like you truly belong.”
This is why Ella is part of One Broadgate’s women’s network, which meets once a month for discussions on issues facing women in the sector, talks from guest speakers, and self-defence classes, one aspect of the network that Ella is particularly keen on, as an avid gym-goer.
Looking ahead, Ella is keen to increase the voice and visibility of young people within construction, and is part of Sir Robert McAlpine’s Young Safety Leadership Team (YSLT) group who meet every so often to discuss issues they collectively face in the industry. She also works with the Construction Youth Trust (CYT), which aims to share the benefits of a career in construction and the build environment sector with young people, supporting them in achieving their full potential within the sectors.
“Streets of Growth is another charity we work with. They provide at-risk, vulnerable youth between the ages of 16-25 with leadership programmes to help lead them down a better path. We’ll be doing some fundraising for them soon, so watch this space!”
When she isn’t busy making sure projects run smoothly, Ella’s favourite place to unwind is the gym: in fact, she’s just started at BXR, or the highest gym in London located on the 25th floor of 22 Bishopsgate. When asked whether she can spot any of Sir Robert McAlpine’s projects from up there, Ella laughs.
“I can, but none of mine, unfortunately!”