21-year-old Chanell Fraser-Kellman from northwest London decided early on that she wouldn’t choose the path taken by many of her contemporaries at school – crime, drug-taking, carrying knives – so instead she joined the construction industry.
“I wanted to make the most of my life,” says Chanell, “so step by step I set myself a target of being better off than my parents had been at my age.”
With her mum being a director of a scaffolding company, and her dad a carpenter with experience on projects such as the Olympic stadium, construction seemed the natural path for Chanell. So inspired by the giddy heights of construction, she set out to learn more about the management side of the industry.
“I knew I didn’t want to do hard labour but I’m a good communicator,” Chanell continues. “I realised I had the basic skills to develop into a management role.”
While studying construction at the University of Westminster, Chanell was introduced to the construction firm, Willmott Dixon, which enrolled her onto a training programme as a trainee construction manager. She works hard at balancing her training programme alongside her degree.
Despite her construction roots, Chanell was surprised by how much she had to learn.
“The job’s a real challenge but I’ve always liked to operate outside my comfort zone. The best thing about construction is that you’re all coming together on the same goal to build something. I can see the project through from beginning to end.”
The job isn’t the only challenge Chanell has had to face as she acknowledges the need for more women in construction and emphasises the wide variety of roles that are now available through the industry.
“A lot more women are realising it’s a broad business, with roles like finance and management. Without these elements, a project wouldn’t get onto site. We need more women in construction.”
Looking to the future, Chanell envisions a more diverse workforce and values the efforts of companies like Willmott Dixon who endeavour to support equality and diversity in the workforce.
Chanell also enjoys giving back to the community herself and being a voice of guidance for other young people who may be stuck at a crossroads. She regularly speaks in schools and at careers fairs in the hope that she can encourage others to choose a path of work and prosperity rather than crime.
“If I can influence others by mentoring and speaking out, I will. It’s up to you to choose the right path. Instead of picking up a knife, why not build something good?”