Genoveva Villegas Cardeñas, after 17 years as a driver, has signed up for the “Backhoe Loader Operator” course at the Fundación Laboral Centre in Huelva. She is not planning her future away from machinery and the construction sector, where she does not stop training
Just a few months ago, Genoveva Villegas Cardeñas arrived in the construction sector by casualty. After 17 years as a driver of transport adapted for disabled people and after remaining unemployed, Genoveva enrolled in the course “Rear Loader Operator”, which was taught at the Training Centre of the Fundación Laboral in Huelva. A fan of machinery and the steering wheel, Genoveva never stops training to make a place for herself in the sector, in a profession in which she declares herself to be in love and in which she sees her working future: “You have to work on what you like to enjoy it”.
QUESTION.- What was your working situation when you enrolled in the course?
ANSWER.- I worked as a transport driver adapted for disabled people, but in December I was fired after 17 years in the same company. When you’ve been in the same area for so long and your work is over, you look as if your life were a blank sheet of paper. I didn’t know what to do and I started asking friends and family what was on the rise in the workplace. I was told that there was work in goods transport and construction.
Q.- And how did you find out the Fundación Laboral course?
A.- On the one hand, I started to get my driver’s license for rigid trucks, which I already have. On the other hand, I looked for information about construction on the Internet, until I found the Fundación Laboral, and I came to the office in Huelva. I asked about courses in handling machinery or trucks and they told me about this one as a backhoe loader, and I enrolled. I was about to do everything I could to keep going.
Q.- Did you have any previous experience in the sector?
A.- Not at all, I had never been in the sector. I enrolled in the course without knowing what the matter was, or anything. This was something unknown for me, I had no knowledge. For 17 years, I had limited myself to transporting passengers with reduced mobility or disabilities, which has nothing in common with construction. I had to be able to work at something. This was booming and I went that way, with the surprise that I was completely amazed.
Q.- Did you ever doubt in going into this sector because you are a woman?
A.- No, I’m very open-minded. When I see myself in a problem, I face it. I swallow my fears and go ahead. Then, if I serve for the work or not, it’s something else.
Q.- How was your first day in the course?
A.- I was hoping that at least there would be another woman. When I came to the Fundación Laboral I asked if there were more women and they told me there were not. So that’s where I was on the first day, with 14 men. From the first moment I said that I wanted to be treated like one more, to talk about what they had to comment on, as long as they didn’t offend me. In the end, my integration into the course was enormous. I believe that if we want to integrate into the sector, they have to accept us, but we have to do as well for them. Now we are all friends and, when we can, we meet. Although I entered with fear, the integration I had in that group has been wonderful. We are all looking forward to seeing each other again. In addition, there are some colleagues with whom I am now training in machinery prevention.
Q.- Are you the only girl in the course of prevention?
A.- Yes, I am also the only girl in this group, but all my classmates are respectful. Maribel, who works at the Fundación there in Huelva, has told me once that I’m a champion because I’m the first to do the backhoe loader course, and I can’t believe it. If we want to integrate in the sector, the best thing would be that the young women be encouraged to enter.
Q.- Why do you think they don’t encourage themselves?
A.– I think it’s because we’re used to do the same jobs and being within a few sectors. If people saw those of us in the sector, I think we would help many girls to make the desition. The problem is that we are stuck in a certain number of jobs and I think we still have a long way to go. What I want is to open up my path and help others to open up and motivate them to cheer up.
Q.- What do you remember about your time in the machinery course? What did you find most interesting?
A.- I liked everything in general, but what was most interesting was the practices we did in the installations. There we levelled the ground, picked up the material with the shovel and loaded it, etc. It’s great to work with this machine, it’s very functional, it’s good for a lot of things. I love the machine, to open a perfect ditch and to have the ability to achieve that, even depending on the ground, everything comes out perfect.
Q.- Do you have any other training in mind?
A.- Yes, I have asked the members of the Fundación in Huelva to let me know as soon as something comes out that fits in with what I want. Anything with a joystick or a steering wheel I would like to get out with their specific training. I want to know how to drive cranes. Right now I’m taking the general and specific course of earthmoving risk prevention. And if I need something to drive a crane, I’ll take it out too.
Q.- Do you plan to continue in the construction sector or would you go back to your old job?
A.- I am determined to continue on this path. And I’m not going back. I love driving, the steering wheel, but I don’t take a passenger anymore. If I liked what I was doing, I like this more. And you have to work on what you like to enjoy it.
Q.- What do you like most about working as a machine operator?
A.- I like to work away from home, with a team of people where each one has his function. The work of each one is like a link and between all of us we form a chain. And at the end you have the award, the construction finished. In addition, it is a pride to see how something that you start and is a disaster at first, takes shape and becomes something impressive. Everyone has their role, but we’re all a team.
Q.- Are you looking for a job at the same time that you get form?
A.- Yes, I have given some CVs while I train. And I see well that companies ask for training, because I think that if you have training and certificates, there are no excuses for them to hire you. If you ask for some requirements, the sex of the candidate should not matter. That’s why I try to train myself in every way, so that there’s no problem.
Q.- Have you received an answer to the offers to which you have applied?
A.- No, but it’s normal, because I just finished the prevention course, and I think that until I have all my training they won’t be able to call me. But I’m moving to work before the end of the year.
Q.- An important aspect when working in construction is age, do you see yourself as capable of doing the job as other younger colleagues?
A.– Honestly, I don’t think age has any influence. The only difference is that the boss prefers someone younger because he thinks he can give more than you. And I think it’s even the other way around. A 48-year-old has a very well-established head, has experience in life. Young people take things differently. Of course they are responsible, but I believe that in difficult situations, the experience life helps you and to act better.
Q.- How do you think the sector will change in the coming years?
A.- I think there will be more women. If I have found this area by chance, a young woman seeing someone like me in the sector, I think it is going to help to encourage her. Visibility has a lot of influence. In less than ten years this will rise. It’s what I hope and want, because when I see a woman doing a job that was unthinkable before, I’m very excited. I wish there were many of us.
Q.- How do you think men see the fact that there are more and more women in the sector?
A.- I believe that men also have a good time and enjoy working with women. I was just another one with my colleagues and that’s what I liked the most; I’ve never felt that way before. I came to the course afraid because I was the only woman, because I was afraid they wouldn’t talk to me. At the end, when we finished the course and picked up the title, everyone encouraged me and it was wonderful. I can’t say anything bad because it’s been great. I hope I will join the construction sector to work, because it is a very nice and dynamic sector. You have plenty to choose different types of work.
Q.- What would you say to a girl who is considering entering the construction sector?
A.- Do it, life is too short and you don’t know what could happen tomorrow. Some circumstances have led me to construction after 17 years driving in the same company. When I was there, the trucks were already attracting my attention, but once you get settled in it is more difficult. I recommend the one that likes it, even if she has the comfort of her job, to do what she wants, because working in what you like and enjoy is as if you don’t work.