María Ropero, student of the Labour Insertion Programme TODAY, of Fundación Laboral de la Construcción in Castilla-La Mancha, dreams to work in a sector that she likes and in which she asserts herself.
Through the youth employment programme ‘HOY’, promoted by the Fundación Laboral de la Construcción and financed by the Regional Government of Castilla-La Mancha and the European Social Fund, 24-year-old María Ropero, is specialising in the construction sector after having worked as a waitress and a cleaner and will soon begin her internship in a construction company in Toledo.
Maria tells us about her experience in the individual and grupal orientation sessions, and her learning within the Certificate of Professionalism of “Masonry Factories” that she is studying in the Training Centre of Toledo.
QUESTION: How did you find out about the “HOY” Program that Fundación Laboral has developed in Castilla-La Mancha?
ANSWER: I knew about it because I was in the Youth Guarantee Program. Maria, one of the counsellors from Fundación Laboral told me about it. Then I did an interview at the Foundación’s Centre in Toledo and they gave me a few details. I liked what they told me and I accepted to enter the Program. Why not? You always have to try new things.
Q.- What was your work situation when you signed up?
A.- I was unemployed, looking for work. I got out of high school and already started working.
Q.- Why didn’t you continue studying?
A.- I tried to do the Baccalaureate: I did it remotely and, although I studied, I saw that I did not succeed. It was too hard and I thought I was not good at studying, but at working. Studying is not my thing. Since then I’ve been a waitress, I’ve looked after children, I’ve been a cleaner… I even took a course in civil engineering with the Toledo City Council. This course was related to construction, but that’s not what I’m doing with the Fundación.
Q.- Did you have the idea of training in construction when you came to the centre of Fundación Laboral?
A.- Well, Maria, the counsellor, already knew me from the course at the Toledo City Council. She told me that I was good for this sector and that I should continue in it, that I should try. I didn’t have anything to lose either, so I decided to go ahead and sign up. It wasn’t something I had planned, but well, if they told me I was good at it, they must have a reason.
Q.- What do the orientation sessions consist of?
A.- Until now we have been registering in the construction employment portal, entering our curriculum and data. They have also taught us how to prepare for a job interview, how to make the curriculum to have everything up to date, etc. Also we will see the professional branches for each one.
Q.- Do you think these sessions can help you improve your chances of finding a job?
A.- Yes, above all it is helping us a lot to learn how to prepare for an interview. I have learned that you have to adapt yourself to the position you are looking for. You have to focus on one, not look crazy. You have to select the job, learn things about the company, know what it does, why you want to work there… I think all this will help me a lot.
Q.- Now that you’ve had a little help from Fundación counsellors, what do you think was stopping you from finding a job before participating in the TODAY Program?
A.- I don’t know how to tell you, because I tried hard. I think it was searching without focusing, thinking about working in anything and adapting to everything, not looking for a specific place and thinking about why I want to work there.
Q.- What is the profile of your colleagues? Were they in a similar situation to yours?
A.- Well, yes, my colleagues were even worse than me because, due to their personal situations, they needed to work and gain work experience as soon as possible. But we have been a good group and we have understood each other very well.
Q.- How was your first day at the ‘Masonry Factories’ Certificate?
A.- Well, the truth is that I expected more crowding in the workshop, but being a small group, it is more familiar, more pleasant. I get along very well with my teacher and classmates. There are six of us, the same as in the orientation sessions.
Q.- What do you find more interesting out of what you are seeing in the course?
A.- I am a person who gets amazed by everything, so I like everything so far. Perhaps what I like most is learning to make arches or build partitions.
Q.- What did you expect from this course? Have your expectations been fulfilled?
A.– I wish it lasted longer so I could have learned more. But we are learning a little bit of everything. These three months of the course have been short.
Q.- After the certificate you will have to do an internship in a company. Do you already have an idea of how that will be liike?
A.- I hope everything goes well and that the company will be comfortable with me. I’m quite nervous about the internship, actually. As long as they teach me many things, I’ll be satisfied.
Q.- Would you like to work in construction when you finish the course?
A.- I expect so, but the company has to tell me whether I am good at it. So, yes, I hope to find a job, this is something I like, I am good at it, and it is a job for life. I’m going with the idea of finding a job, yes or yes. I never close doors, and if I like it, why not?
Q.- You already knew the sector from a previous course, but what image did you have of the sector before?
A.- The truth is that I imagined construction to be much harder, more unbearable. I expected that more physical strength or other capacities would be needed… But it has nothing to do with that, it is a parallel world to what I imagined. In this you don’t have to have strenght to build a wall. It’s enough to have logic and know the necessary techniques.
Q.- Do you think that’s what girls your age think about it?
A.– Yes, because you see the construction sites and they are all men. It is thought that women have always had less strength, and that they are not going to be able to do anything, but for the construction it is not so important, you need logic and head. You have your capacity and that’s it: you don’t have to be a man or a woman, nor do you have to have a specific body.
Q.- What would you say to a girl who is considering training for a trade?
A.- I would say that we should not be afraid of anything. Just because you see a man working on a construction site doesn’t mean you aren’t qualified for it. Sometimes a woman can have more strength than a man. Why swouldn’t you be as good as him?
Q.- Why do you think young people are not encouraged to take part in construction?
A.- I think young people sign up for other things and do not give so much importance to construction. They prefer a quicker job or to study at university rather than work in this…
Q.- If it hadn’t been for the “HOY” Program, would you have started training in the construction sector?
A.- Well, the truth is that before they called me I had thought about it. I finished the other course quite happy. It was another option I had, but I wasn’t sure either. But they called me and I went ahead.
Q.- How do you imagine yourself in a year from now?
A.- I hope to be working in construction. If I end up doing badly, which I hope I won’t, at least I hope to do some works to my friends, my people… doing something related to this.