Inspiring young people to consider a career in construction – Lauren’s story

In a new film Where it All Begins, which is due to be released on Thursday 27 May, the Construction Innovation Hub (‘the Hub’) and Class Of Your Own (‘COYO’) have joined together to call on the construction industry to support them in attracting the brightest and best upcoming talent. Through capturing the imaginations of younger generations we can convince them that a career within the built environment is as valid and opportunity-rich as a career in any other sector.  

Twenty-one-year-old Lauren Cunningham, from Manchester, now works as an Undergraduate Civil Engineer for WSP. She has worked in construction for five years and is in the third year of her degree. After graduating she is planning to start working towards becoming a Chartered Engineer.  

Lauren’s first taste of ‘Design Engineer Construct!’ (DEC) was when, due to her good grades in maths, she was invited to join a STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths) after school group in Year 8 (age 12).  Although she didn’t enjoy it at first the subject grew on her and she opted to study DEC at GCSE levelswitching her focus from studying for a medical career.  

Lauren explained:

The thing I liked about it was that we were using industry software –visualisers and that sort of thing. We were sat there with our pen and pencil and then we were presented with this software that was so different to anything we had used at school before.”

She recalls speaking to her parents before she chose the DEC GCSE and they were concerned that it wouldn’t offer the best prospects for her as a young woman, as they were not aware of the diversity of roles that were available or the range of people who work in the built environment sector.  

Lauren said:

When I was picking my GCSE options I was thinking about the opportunities that would come afterwards, such as apprenticeships. With a career in construction I was able to get my degree whilst I was working and learning on the job. – it offered loads of benefits.

The course is really good fun but also gives you a great picture of what the industry would be like to work in. We worked closely with Laing O’Rourke – including a work experience placement – it was a subject that offered everything in one package. Another thing that was great – and different from my other subjects – was that we were able to pick our own project to focus on – something that we were interested in. I chose to design an equestrian centre and some of the boys designed a football stadium.

My experience with DEC definitely helped me to land my first job. I walked through the door as a 16-year-old girl and I had a portfolio of work that I had done on industry standard software and had a good grounding in the principles of engineering as well. I achieved my professional accreditation at 18 when I had been in the industry for 18 months – typically it takes three years to get that – but I was able to do it more quickly because of the experience I got with DEC.”

Join the conversation at #DECWhereItAllBegins #LaurensStory #TransformingConstruction #COYO​​ #DEC

Projects: Construction Futures