All-female bricklaying competition: Hainault student demonstrates how to make the perfect corner at Rainham centre
PUBLISHED: 17:00 26 February 2019
Women across the country will soon be heading to Rainham for the UK's first all-female bricklaying competition.
When you think of bricklayers, you might imagine a group of men working away on a building site.
Employees at Havering College are keen to change that stereotype by encouraging more women to try construction courses.
Bricklaying Forterra Females (BFF) competition, hosted by the Havering College of Further and Higher Education, offers female students a chance to showcase their skills.
I visited Rainham Construction Centre in New Road, on Monday, February 25, to meet one of the college’s students who will be taking part in the competition.
Tiffany Atkinson from Hainault showed me how to lay a corner of bricks with a 2x2 base.
From the start I quickly discovered that simple actions like swiftly cutting and laying the mortar with a trowel was a move that would take lots of practice to perfect and in the short hour we had I wasn’t going to become an expert.
Thankfully Tiffany was a patient teacher and explained the importance of making sure each brick that we lay was level with the rest of the structure.
She showed me how to butter a brick with mortar and use a leveller when knocking it into place.
At each stage Tiffany made sure the bricks weren’t smudged and that there was the right amount of spacing between each brick.
Tiffany’s dad was a bricklayer and it was from watching him work that she decided to follow in his footsteps.
“I love working with my hands, moving about and creating things,” she said.
“Some people are really shocked when I walk in and say I’m a bricklayer. People do say it’s not a woman’s job, but I just feel like it is and that there are more women doing it now.”
While we worked, David Jones, senior instructor for construction, spoke about how important the corners are to start with when bricklaying and that the bricklayers will use Pythagoras’ theorem to calculate the angles and make sure that it’s correct.
“There are around 2.3million people in construction,” said David.
“Of that figure, 13per cent are women, but only 2pc of that figure are women who are actually on the tools. A recent survey showed that 38pc of households prefer women tradesmen working in their homes.”
Colin Seabrook, head of the department for construction and building services, added: “When I was working, sometimes you would go to a house and there would be just a lone woman.
“You used to have to go out of your way to make them feel safe.”
Fortunately things are changing and the first all-female bricklaying competition is evidence of that.
David said: “It’s a different world today - 50 years ago, when I first walked onto a building site, it was a jungle.
“Now there are lots of rules in place.”
Colin added: “Wolf whistling and cat calling is banned.
“The requirements are so much better as they make it a better environment for women.”
Colin encouraged any young women who are interested in becoming employees to go to their local colleges for information about courses and to try and find an apprenticeship.
He said the amount of construction opportunities available to people in Havering was “astounding”.
“Havering has just signed a £100million deal with Wates for redevelopment, it’s absolutely ideal.
“Neil Stubbings [director of regeneration at Havering Council] is very keen and proactive at getting young people into construction.”
Tiffany, who is taking a Trowel Occupations Bricklaying Level 1 course, said that her advice to any young women considering becoming bricklayers is to “just do it”.
“I was nervous but it’s the best thing I’ve done,” said the 17-year-old student.
“Just have fun with it, because in the end you’re doing what you love.”
BFF will take place at the Rainham Construction Centre on March 4. Visit havering-college.ac.uk.