Decisions, decisions – this summer’s cohort of school-leavers will know by now whether they want to continue in full time education or get a job.

Barbara Hastie, apprenticeship officer at the Construction Industry Training Board, says she didn’t have a clue what she wanted to do when she left school at 16.

Now aged 45, she has her own business and, thanks to her lucky stars, she followed her dad’s advice. He persuaded her to take a course in painting and decorating.

“Up until then no-one had suggested I took up a trade leading to a career in the building industry,” she said.

“It was hard at first,” she admits. “On my first day at college I was the only female in the class.

“Following on from that I managed to gain an apprenticeship with a local company and become a fully qualified painter and decorator.

“Being the only girl never bothered me,” she laughs. “Up until that point no-one had ever suggested to me that a girl could do a trade craft for a living, it was only seen as something for the boys.

“I would encourage any girls out there to try construction as a worthwhile career.”

The construction industry is still largely male dominated.

Across the country as a whole, 84 per cent of the workforce are male. Only 16 per cent are women.

One of the companies that bucks the national trend is Beaconsfield-based Inland Homes.

Thirty-two per cent of the construction team here are female.

Bronwen Lohlun is a senior technical manager. She joined Inland in 2016 after moving to England from South Africa where she worked for a firm of architects.

Part of her role in her present job involves fostering a smooth working relationship between the construction and design teams.

Bronwen says she has always believed success in the workplace is down to demonstrable ability and self belief. “There is no reason why gender should hold you back in your career.”

She adds: “I do think it is really important to be highlighting these subjects as I feel there is still not full equality, not necessarily just in construction but in many other sectors, too.

“I have never personally felt that being a woman has hindered me in my role and I have never felt the men in the room have looked down on me because of my gender especially [not] at Inland.

“It’s important to encourage more women into construction particularly if they believe they have the correct skill to excel.”

Roxy Allen joined Inland in 2018 as an assistant estimator after taking a course in construction with a previous employer. “I’d always had an interest in property.

“When I was younger my parents rebuilt their house. I found it amazing to see it go from a design on a piece of paper to a real home but until I applied for my first job I never realised how many different roles there really were in housebuilding.”

Pippa Hepworth is one of Inland’s commercial managers. Over the 13 years she has worked in the sector she says she has seen a real change in the way women are accepted.

“When I started out at 17 there weren’t many women and it was a bit of a battle to break the mould and take on people’s negative opinions towards a female.

“Today there are more women rising through the ranks. When I’m in design meetings it’s more of a 50/50 split.

“Even on site we have female crane drivers which would have been unheard of when I first started.”