In a new film Where It All Begins, which is due to be released on Thursday 27 May, the Construction Innovation 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. As part of this campaign, colleagues from across the Hub and our partner network are sharing stories of where it all began for their own careers, to inspire the next generation and shine a light on the vast and perhaps unexpected array of routes that can be taken into the built environment sector. 

My journey in the built environment started at university, after I moved from Romania to the UK to be an undergraduate at the Bartlett School of Architecture, UCL. During my years as a student, I balanced navigating London – the complex new city that I now call home – with learning about the multitude of challenges and opportunities that face the UK construction sector.

Through my studies, my horizons broadened around the innovations that were changing the face of construction, and as I uncovered more layers through my research, my urge to delve deeper and get involved in the movement of positively disrupting the industry began to grow.

A couple of years after finishing my degree, I joined the Construction Innovation Hub as a Researcher in Skills & Training. This provided an opportunity to work alongside like-minded people committed to improving the image of construction, bridge the skills gap and shift the focus to more sustainable, greener and resilient ways of building. From the very beginning, I felt that it was important to inspire young people to start their own careers in construction and seek out opportunities to connect with others who share the vision for creating a better built environment.

In March, I was invited to be a panellist in a National Careers Week event organised by STEMPoint East. For me, this was a turning point in which I began to feel visible as a young professional aiming to represent the construction industry in a positive and transparent way. I was part of an inclusive discussion around the diverse career routes into the built environment sector, speaking to students who were considering their career options and searching for inspiration for their futures.

I was grateful for the opportunity to engage with my fellow panellists – women from a range of backgrounds and different points in their career – as they shared their inspiring stories of how they joined the industry. This made me appreciate the vast array of routes into this sector and the fact that there is no right or wrong path to a successful and fulfilling career. We took time to discuss some of the pivotal moments that have shaped our careers and the support we’ve received to achieve our goals. This was an important aspect that we wanted to highlight as its perhaps an all-to-common perception that a male-dominated industry such as construction does not represent an inclusive space for women to progress in.

Back to the present day, my career now continues with Constructing Excellence – an organisation which exists to stimulate and drive change in the construction sector – having recently joined as the new Insight & Engagement Coordinator. Within this role, I am keen to continue being visible and demonstrating that the built environment presents valid opportunities for people from all walks of life, skillsets and backgrounds.

Going forward, I’m passionate about seeking opportunities to inspire young people and send out the message that the construction industry presents a broad spectrum of exciting careers for the next generation. As a representative of the industry, it’s key to reinforce the fact that we will only be able to deliver the real and lasting transformation that is needed in the construction sector, if we have the vital input of a diverse range of young people with dynamic skills and experiences.

Andreea Vihristencu is the Insight & Engagement Coordinator for Constructing Excellence.