Beccy Brookwell – Building Surveyor
Bucking the trend before she even began her construction career, Beccy Brookwell has worked hard to get where she is today. Here she explains to Shared Apprenticeships South West why working alongside study was the right choice for her.
Beccy Brookwell was one of only two girls enrolled on her building course at Erith College of Technology, London, in the late 1970s. Walking away from stereotypical job roles for women, she set her sights on construction. But the move wasn’t an easy one.
“Girls were traditionally expected to learn typing and shorthand and initially I was going to enrol on an accountancy course,” she said. “But when I was asked what I was actually interested in, I said I was fascinated by buildings and their architecture so realised that I should do what I was passionate about, not what I was expected to do.”
Signing up for a building course, Beccy was nervous and unsure what to expect when she first set foot in the male-dominated classroom.
She said: “I was one of only two girls in my class and it was difficult but we stuck together, worked hard and achieved very high standards. And that girl Nicki became my oldest friend, I am the Godmother to her daughter and she also became a building surveyor and now works for English Heritage.”
The pair even made the news, gracing the cover of the college magazine as advocates for the construction course.
“I found that if you’ve got a passion about construction then just do it,” she said. “Let that be your drive to push you towards your chosen career. There will be obstacles along the way whether you are a man or a woman, but just go for it.”
Entering the world of work
After completing her training, Beccy chose to go straight into a work environment instead of continue on in education at University. Becoming a building surveyor, she spent one day a week studying for a degree while working on the job.
Explaining her decision to go straight in to work instead of studying at University, she said: “I wanted to start earning money; I was ready to leave education and get in to a work environment. I realised that employers wanted someone with work experience who could also train on the job.”
Newly qualified, Beccy provided professional advice on property and construction, focusing on the restoration and maintenance of buildings as well as the design and development of new ones.
During her career, Beccy worked in a variety of interesting and iconic locations throughout the capital including with Greater London Council and the City of London Corporation where she was part of the team at Mansion House, home and office of the Lord Mayor of London.
Beccy moved to Bournemouth Borough Council in 2001 and now the 51 year old is corporate facilities manager, overseeing the budgets and maintenance of buildings and services for the authority.
She said: “I have completely loved my time in construction. I am so glad I chose to do that initial college course and not become an accountant. Working for a local authority was a direction I knew I wanted to take early on in my career. I really wanted to be a public servant and give something back; it has been really rewarding.”
Talking about being a woman in a male-dominated industry, Beccy said it had been difficult at times but things were changing for the better.
She said: “I have come across sexism in the past, I’ve had to prove myself as a building surveyor and as a woman in the construction sector but that has just driven me to be even better and pushed me to keep succeeding in the industry. I’m not who you would say is a stereotypical member of the construction industry – I like nail varnish and high heels.
“I’ve always bucked the trend but as long as you have the passion and commitment to the job, you will excel. That goes for women as well as men, it is the same for all of us.
“We are all the same. If you have got that passion, male or female, just go for it. It has been a real pleasure to work in construction, especially as you can look around and say ‘I was involved in making that building and it is part of me’. It is there for your children and grandchildren to see – you had an influence over the skyline.”
To find out more about how Shared Apprenticeships South West could help you begin a career in construction, click here.