Meet Chantelle, 20, who is already a 'game-changer' for Hull's construction industry

By Hull Daily Mail | Posted: 11 Mar 2019

When it comes to laying a kerb stone or pouring concrete, Chantelle Bowden is making waves in a man's world.

For the 20-year-old is currently the only female groundworker apprentice in Hull working in what is still the very male-dominated civil engineering industry.

The former Beverley High School pupil is in the second of a two-year apprenticeship with Hull-based family-run business M.B. Roche & Sons.

Hull apprentice Chantelle Bowden is a 'game changer' for the construction industry

She spends most of her working week on sites across the city while studying brick-laying and other building skills at Hull College on Thursdays.

"When I was at school I wanted to go into the Army but then I realised I didn't like the idea of being away from home," she said.

"One day I went to work with my Dad and realised straightaway it was the job for me."

Dad Steve also works at Roche and the pair are currently working together as part of a team on a contract reinstating footpaths in Orchard Park.

"I love it," said Chantelle, who lives in Wawne.

"I get to do a bit of everything, from kerbing and block paving to concreting. I like getting mucky so it suits me down to the ground ."

Apprentice Chantelle Bowden ready for work (Image: M.B. Roche)

As the only female on her college course as well as on the company's street gangs, she's used to eyebrows being raised.

"Some people don't believe it when they see me grafting and some are quite shocked that a girl is doing this sort of job but why not?

"It would be great if I can inspire other girls to become groundworker apprentices in the future."

Company director Daniel Roche said: "Women represent less than one per cent of the construction industry workforce on site.

"As a small family-run civil contractor we saw this as a potential growth opportunity enabling us to inspire the workforce of tomorrow and address the industry skills gulf.

"Gender diversity in the construction industry is shockingly poor. There are few other industries in the UK where the gender gap is quite as noticeable as it is in construction.

"Of the one per cent of the on-site construction workforce that are females, I would suggest that within civil engineering this is mainly made up of site engineers who are university-educated.

Apprentice Chantelle Bowden learning on the job (Image: M.B. Roche)

"Our initiative to employ a female civil engineering groundwork apprentice is therefore a real game changer."

Mr Roche said Chantelle made an immediate impression during an initial two-week placement with the company.

"Within the first week it was clear it was a great match and by the end of the second week we had no hesitation in offering Chantelle a full civil engineering groundworker apprenticeship.

"We are in no doubt that she will be a future site supervisor."

He added: "The key to our initiative has been to make on-site civil engineering work a more appealing career option for young females.

"Diversity on-site needs to be more than just a buzz word. It is an integral part of our company growth strategy.

"Encouraging women into a male-dominant part of a male-dominated industry is helping encourage creativity and foster innovation.

"Chantelle has quickly brought about a change of mind-set and perception of females in civil engineering on every site she has worked on, not only within our own workforce but also main contractors and clients who have all commented on how they would all love her to be their apprentice."

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