Real Lives - Breaking barriers and building walls

Tue 03 Mar 2020

Ellise Kitcher

When we meet Tai Tarian resident, Ellise Kitcher, we’re not at her home near Pontardawe. Instead, we’re actually in one of our properties in Resolven in the Neath Valley.

That’s because, since last year, Ellise has been employed as an apprentice plasterer with one of our contractors, Jefferies Ltd.

The Pontyclun-based company are responsible for the refurbishment of the kitchens and bathrooms in our properties as well bringing empty homes back up to scratch, ready for new tenants. Ellise’s presence plastering the dining room wall is something of a rarity as women make up just 14% of the workforce in the construction industry.

“I’ve always been interested in construction, ever since I was a kid”, she tells us. “It is all I ever wanted to do. So, when I left school, there was only route I was going to go down.

“I started off by studying carpentry before moving on to general maintenance. Then last year I began this plastering apprenticeship and haven’t looked back since.”

Ellise came to Jefferies’ attention through a scheme called Career Changers, a project to entice more women into the construction industry.

“I’m really fortunate to have found a company like Jefferies”, Ellise continued. “I have fitted in really well and they are helping me build a successful future in the industry. I spend one day in college, but the other four days I spend on site, in properties like this, working alongside and learning from my more experienced colleagues.

“I enjoy working on doing up these empty properties. Coming in to an empty shell, doing my work and then leaving, knowing I have done my bit to help create a new home for someone is very rewarding. I find plastering very therapeutic and relaxing and I just enjoy doing it.”

As for the future, Ellise is keeping her options open:
“I’m really enjoying this apprenticeship at the moment with the course taking me through to Summer 2021. At the moment, I’d like to carry on with plastering but I might also consider learning another trade too.”

Andrew Williams, is the Operations Director for Jefferies and is a big supporter of the Careers Changer programme that brought Ellise to them.
“Career Changers is a great initiative that seeks to attract more women into the construction industry. It was through this programme that Ellise came to us and it has really benefited us as company.

“Our partnership with this programme and our contracts with Tai Tarian has allowed us to create employment opportunities for local people and it’s great that Ellise has not only taken the opportunity but is really excelling too. The future is looking bright for her."

With the construction industry still being male dominated, Ellise has these words of encouragement for other women looking to get into the industry:
“Just give it a go, it’s a lot easier than you’d think. I’ve fitted in really well and enjoy working with everyone on site. I’ve only been here a few months but it feels like I’ve known everyone my entire life.”