National Inclusion Week: "Things are naturally changing as more people come through the industry, and the attitudes of younger people gravitate towards alternative careers", says Sassi Stark, Digital Construction Manager.
Eight years ago, whilst working on site for another contractor, Sassi Stark had a bad fall.
Thankfully, nothing was broken and Sassi was not badly hurt, but when reporting back to her then manager she was told to ‘man up’. The experience, in Sassi’s opinion, 'would not have happened that way today’, though was much more typical eight years ago. That such an expression would never now be used shows quite how far the industry has come.
Having originally gone to university to study fashion, Sassi switched to Architectural Technology on her very first day. ‘I didn’t feel like I fit in in fashion’, says Sassi. ‘I swapped immediately and haven’t looked back’.
After university, Sassi, Digital Construction Manager at Sir Robert McAlpine worked at several firms, where she was responsible for onsite surveying work and layouts for housing developments, before eventually finding her niche in BIM. Indeed, according to Sassi, ‘working in BIM was the best thing that I ever did. It’s an integral role, you are overseeing the whole piece for a job, not just this or that detail. And at Sir Robert McAlpine, we’re really finding ways to make it a tangible benefit, and not just a box ticking exercise.’
Today, Sassi is working on the Derbyshire Mental Health facilities in Derby & Chesterfield as part of IHP, the joint venture between Vinci Building UK and Sir Robert McAlpine. Here, Sassi oversees all things digital, be it virtual walk throughs, clash detection, digital handovers or weekly site progress capture with OpenSpace. Sassi was previously part of the team at One Centenary Way. This involved working on some really innovative aspects of the project, including monitoring the movement of the building’s supporting trusses, which span Birmingham’s ring road and are designed to deflect as each level of the project is built.
I would describe being a digital construction manager as the opportunity to add real value to the project team. At Sir Robert McAlpine, our projects are truly digitally driven, that’s what sets us apart from the rest of the sector.
Digital Construction Manager
What’s more, in Sassi’s opinion, digital construction provides one potential route into the sector for more women. This is perhaps best demonstrated by the career of a graduate she now manages, whom Sassi first met at a university engagement event: “She hadn’t initially considered construction, but the fact she’s here now shows there’s no one direct path into the sector.”
That’s not to say that significant progress has not already been made in improving inclusivity right across the sector. In fact, on her current project, Sassi estimates that women make up about 40% of the site team, working across all job roles.
And when it comes to making the sector even more inclusive, Sassi who is a member of the firm’s Gender Equality Affinity Network is optimistic. “Things are naturally changing as more people come through the industry, and the attitudes of younger people gravitate towards alternative careers.”
One thing the sector could do, however, is better advertise the diversity of job roles. For those considering a career, Sassi stresses: ‘I didn’t know there was such a variety of roles available in construction. There are so many jobs that are mundane, but I don’t think anyone could describe this as mundane’.
Outside of work, Sassi who claims to be a ‘geek for old things’, successfully launched a campaign to change the planning rules about houses in multiple occupancy in Derby where she lives, which received unanimous support from all parties on the local council.
And changing the construction sector is too, something that will naturally continue in the months and years ahead as more women join the industry.