Crossing the Divide

During our visit to Brooklands College a few weeks ago, we heard about Tessa Meade – the only female student currently on the level 2 bricklaying course. We caught up with her to find out what life’s like in a male dominated industry.

What made you want to go into bricklaying?

I didn’t like any of the other courses they had on offer. I wanted to do something where you were making something that would last – when I build something, I will be able to go back in 30 years and it will still be there. There aren’t many jobs that give you that.

What do you like most about the course?

The brick laying side of it is great, it’s nice to be able to learn by doing. I like the team I work with and all of the boys in the class are great.

What are your plans for the future?

I have been told today that plans for a level three course are going ahead so I would like to do that, once I have all of my qualifications I am looking at going into an apprenticeship.

How does it feel to be the only female on the course?

At first I was really nervous that I wouldn’t fit in. I think once everyone saw that I wasn’t here to mess about and that I am good at what I do, I earned their respect.

What was the reaction of friends and family when you told them what you want to do?

Everyone has been really supportive. My mum said that she would support me no matter what I do and that she just wants me to be happy. My grandparents are just pleased that I have found something that I enjoy doing.

Do you think you will be accepted as a woman in a male dominated industry?

I think it will be tough at first and I will have to really work to prove myself. Once I have shown people that I am capable and a hard worker I think they will accept me.

Have you ever felt that you have been looked down on because of your gender?

There have been a few occasions where people have said to me that brick laying is man’s work and that a girl shouldn’t be doing it. I just ignore it though, I know what people will think but it’s what I want to do and I’m going to work to show them that a girl can hold her own.

You mentioned earlier that you were hoping to be taken on as an apprentice, why?

It means that I will be working on a site and still able to learn. You don’t have to jump straight in and you get paid whilst you learn.

How has your dyslexia affected your learning experience at college?

At first it was really difficult because very few people actually understand what it is and how it affects the way you work. People just assume that you are thick or out to cause trouble. Christian has really helped me over the last couple of years and has worked with me to find the most effective way of doing things.