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Natalie’s “life-changing” drive into construction

When former Care home worker Natalie Visser began health and safety training she never imagined it would lead to a bold career change.

But when her training started, the mum-of-three from Petersfield, near Portsmouth, saw her life take a welcome change of direction.

Natalie, 33, went from being a dissatisfied care worker, who struggled to get out of bed in the morning, to becoming a machine operator thriving in the great outdoors.

Challenge

Natalie began working in the care industry when she left school. She enjoyed the work initially but wanted a new challenge. She liked the idea of working outside and so decided to move into health and safety, planning to become a safety officer in a care home.

Natalie heard about the Construction Skills Certification Scheme card course and thought its health and safety elements, and the chance to learn about construction, would be a good start.

She took a Construction Skills Fund (CSF) course at the Future Skills Centre in Bordon. The training included a three-day plant/heavy machinery taster session - and that’s when Natalie’s transformation took off.

Inspiring a new construction career

“The course inspired me,” says Natalie, “I got on a forward tipping dumper and thought this is so me! It felt very natural.”

Natalie gained more qualifications before losing her job at the care home. Undeterred, she used her savings to undertake more training. This led to her gaining a machine ticket for driving dumpers.

CSF coordinator Carolyn Jay then arranged work experience for Natalie, with Mildren Construction, and this opportunity led to her current employment.

Natalie started her five-days’ work experience under the supervision of Mildren Site Manager Stewart Johnson. She made a great impression.

Within five days the team she was in asked Stewart to employ her as a full-time machine operator/dumper driver.

Progress

“I was very nervous when I went onsite to begin with,” recalls Natalie. “but the team made me feel at home immediately. My gender made no difference whatsoever.”

Natalie is now a Mildren employee and is keen to progress. She says: “I want to get all the tickets – roller, telehandler, excavator – the lot.”

Stewart sees Natalie’s potential. He says: “She could certainly drive more machines and if she keeps learning, she could progress even further, maybe into site management.”

Reflecting on her career change, Natalie says she has become far happier in her work: “The CSF course changed everything. I used to lie in bed not wanting to get up. That’s all gone now. I come in to work happy and go home happy. It has been life changing. I’ve found my feet in my new career and I’m so grateful to my housing association (Abri) and CSF for this.”

Encouraging women into construction

Natalie has an encouraging message to any women considering a construction career. “Don’t be scared to go and do what you want to do, you’ll be surprised how much construction has changed,” she says.

“I want women to know this – construction might suit them perfectly. I do get a lot of people looking at me driving a dumper around – but mostly they just want to know why I chose to do this.”

Stewart agrees: “Many women are intimidated about coming on site. You don’t need to be – just be yourself. We don’t treat Natalie any differently – she’s one of the team, and she just gets on with it.”

Fancy following Natalie into a fulfilling construction career? Our onsite experience hubs (England, Wales) have the information you need.

The CSF provided free construction training for school leavers, long-term unemployed and career-changers who wanted to join the UK’s construction industry. The CSF ensured nearly 20,000 people had the opportunity to work in construction - over 7,000 people successfully gained employment within the sector.