Sector: Electrical Estimation
Alison Welford started as an electrical apprentice when she was 16, despite sometimes being the only woman on site. However, she didn’t let this stop her progress through the ranks to be at the top of her field.
Where do you call home?
Tell us about your role?
I am an electrical estimator and electrical qualifying manger.
How did you get to where you are today?
I left school and went straight into an apprenticeship at 16 as an electrician. My apprenticeship lasted four years and I spent 80 per cent of my time on building sites learning practical skills and 20 per cent at college learning the theory side.
When I qualified, I spent another two years working as an electrician, then did some extra courses and moved up the career ladder to be an approved electrician, which is the highest grade an electrician can be. I then spent another three years working as an approved electrician on building sites all over England. I have worked on hospitals, schools, manufacturing plants, office blocks, football stadiums, shopping centres and some famous landmarks, to name a few!
I then moved into an office role as I’d had a baby and wanted to work closer to home, so I decided to become an estimator. I priced up the work and did the design so that the electricians who work for the company can then install all of the systems within the buildings we are working on. I did that job for ten years.
I am now an estimator, project manager and a qualifying supervisor for all of the electrical work the company I work for carries out. I also look after the people on the building site and manage the project as it moves along. I didn’t go to university as I did an apprenticeship and it’s not necessary to have a degree in my job, although you can get to the higher levels in construction by going to university if doing an apprenticeship is not for you. But as I have done an apprenticeship, I have lots of hands-on experience which is extremely valuable as you progress in construction, and I don’t have lots of student debt as I got paid for learning my trade.
What struggles or obstacles did you face along the way?
It wasn’t always easy being the only girl on a building site. Even now I am often the only girl in a meeting, and it can be daunting, but if you know your stuff you will get respect, but that is the same for men too. The industry is changing and only for the better, I see a lot more females on site and moving up the career ladder. There is a female company director at the company I work for, she is also breaking the mould as it is very rare in construction to have a female director at the helm. She is hugely inspirational to me and is the main reason I came to work at Durata.
Describe the moment you first got a feel for success?
I still have not reached my full potential. I’m still learning every day and want to continue to learn for the rest of my career, which is why I want to keep doing new courses and bettering myself.
I have felt proud at every milestone through my career and hopefully as I progress, I will still have that excited feeling when I know I have achieved something else.
I believe that success is something which is measured by your peers and in my own mind, I’ve still got a long way to go until I can feel successful.
Do you have any advice for aspiring young females?
Be brave and step outside of the mould, don’t follow a career path just because it’s what you think you should do, or what your mates are doing. Leaving school at 16 and deciding what you are going to do with the rest of your life is a big ask. You may not feel comfortable being the only girl on a building site but trust me, you will be supported every step of the way.
What advice would you give to your younger self?
Don’t let anyone dim your light. No matter what, you have it inside you to climb the next mountain and get to where you want to be.
What three words inspire you and encourage a positive path?
Believe in yourself.
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