“I thought it was going to be a sector with few opportunities, but there are already companies that are calling us to do internships and work”

Amaia, Olaia and Yanire are three young students in the Intermediate Vocational Training cycle of “Technician in Interior Works, Decoration and Rehabilitation” that Fundación Laboral de la Construcción teaches in Logroño, La Rioja, together with the High School Batalla de Clavijo.

None of these three young women are 20 years old, but they have clear their future. Amaia, Yanire and Olaia began their journey last September 2019 in the Intermediate Vocational Training (VET) course for Technicians in Interior Works, Decoration and Rehabilitation, which Fundación Laboral de la Construcción is offering, together with High School Batalla de Clavijo, in its Training Centre in Logroño (La Rioja).

Amaia Fernández and Yanire Martínez are 16 years old. Both had just finished their studies of Obligatory High Education when they decided to join the course offered by the joint entity. Olaia Cordero, on the other hand, is 19 years old and got this Degree after studying during two years the Arts Bachelor. Now Olaia combines her studies in construction with a job.

In the week in which Women’s Day is celebrated, we have brought together three girls who will be part of the construction sector, so that they can tell us how they see the sector and what they like best about it:

QUESTION: Why did you sign up for this course? Do you have any experience or a family member who has been part of the construction industry?

Amaia: I enrolled in this course because I want to reform houses, although I want to do a higher degree in decoration first. I didn’t have any experience in the sector: I have done some work with my father, but he hasn’t been a bricklayer or a builder either.

Olaia: I would like to do architecture and that is what most attracts me.

Yanire: I started this course because I liked the world of construction and I wanted to do something practical. When I finished this degree, I had thought of doing the Higher Cycle in Civil Works Planning. My grandfather is a bricklayer, and he had told me about his work, but I have never practiced with him.

Q.- What has been your experience of the course and what has attracted you most?

A.- So far it has all been very practical: we have laid bricks, concrete blocks. We have made flooring and worked with laminated plaster plates and covered the floor with thermal and acoustic insulation… Although I am not very good at it, what I have liked most is working with the plaster, but I am going to practice so that I am good at it. We have also seen theory to explain what we have done: materials, budget…

O.- I am liking it quite a lot because I did not imagine it to be so dynamic, entertaining and practical. Besides, we have had some pretty good teachers, who are treating us very well. What I like most is applying plaster.

Y.- I like everything that is practical and that teaches us how to make a house: to see it and know how it is made. I really like the part about trowelling and working with the laminated plaster plates.

Q.- What is the most difficult thing for you?

A.- For me, the most difficult thing has been the subject of materials, and it is very important, because we have seen that there are things that are not compatible. I thought it was going to be an easy subject, but well… In the end I passed with good marks.

O.- I thought that Training and Work Orientation was going to be more complicated, but I liked it quite a lot. It is a subject in which we have seen the occupational risks, signposting, we have learned to calculate payrolls…

Y.- Also the one that has been the most difficult for me has been material, because it is all very theoretical. In the practical part there are also things that I have to improve a lot, like applying the plaster…

Q.- How did you imagine the world of construction before starting this cycle?

Y.- I thought that it was going to be a sector that was going to have few outlets, due to the crisis, because fewer houses are being built. But this course is not so much focused on building, but on reform, and it is being reformed more and more. I asked at the High School Batalla de Clavijo and they told me that it is a course with many opportunities. In addition, they told me that they usually employ interns and that there were employers calling, so that we could do an internship and work with them.

Q.- Did the others also encourage you to see the job opportunities?

A.- Yes. I had a teacher who told me that there were few opportunities. But then it is true that you see that there are more reforms. And I like to see that you have an old house and you turn it into a super-cool one.

Q.- Did you think it was a tougher sector, more focused on men…?

Y.- I thought that I was going to be the only girl in class, and I was already thinking about it. I thought I would have to make more effort for that. But in class we are three girls out of 15 and my classmates are very nice.

Q.- How were your classmates? Were they surprised to see you in class?

O.- I already knew some of them, the treatment has been great, they treat us like normal people.

A.- They are all very nice and we haven’t had any problems. Between all we have made group.

Y.- We feel included. We can do the same as them.

Q.- How is your relationship with the teachers? Do you see a difference with the treatment you had with them in Obligatory High Education?

A.- Yes, it is different, because in High School you see diffetent subjects as you want to do. Here we also have two-hour classes and only four teachers. It is different.

Y.- Besides, everything is more practical. The day we have the fewest hours of practice in the workshops is three.

Q.- Why do you think the girls don’t want to be trained in this sector? What makes them leave?

Y.- I think it’s the mentality. We are fighting for equality, but many people still think that we can do less because we are not physically capable. But what a man can do by force, a woman can do with effort.

O.- Before I decided on this degree, I considered doing one in mechanics, and what made me back down was my family, who told me that I was going to be alone with boys… In the end I decided on this and I’m very happy.

Q.- Did the others have any pressure to enter the sector?

A.- Not at all. My mother supported me a lot, and my brothers too. I had support from my family.

Y.- My mother was very happy that I did this course, she even wanted to sign up for it herself. My grandfather was very happy, because he was in the sector. However, when I applied, they were surprised to see me there, and they began to ask me if I knew what the course was about, if I was sure, that this was a boy’s course…

Q.- Do you think that in this type of work it is essential to have a lot of physical capacity?

A.- It is true that strength is needed. But if you can’t carry a 35-kilogram sack, you use a wheelbarrow and carry it, or you ask for help… Strength is necessary, but you have help, you have colleagues, tools… There are not so many barriers, although it may seem so.

O.- You can always have someone close to you who could help you.

Q.- Do you think that construction is a sector that can contribute things to the improvement of the environment? Is it something that you deal with in class?

Y.- I think that in construction there are many things that can be improved to make it a more “eco-friendly” sector. In the materials class they told us about which materials are not good for the environment and which we can replace them with. We have also seen passive houses and things like that.

Q.- What would you say to a young girl who is thinking about getting into construction or doing a vocational training course related to the sector?

O.- That she should not think twice. If it is what she wants, she should go for it, because it is worth it and it will be good for her. If she doesn’t like it later, she can always do something else, but it’s just another experience.

Y.- I would tell her to ignore what people say. Maybe someone will tell her that she is going to make a lot of effort or that she is going to feel pressured by men… On the other hand, we have felt very welcome here. Let her go ahead and get trained.

A.- Moreover, she will be happier in a job she likes than in one she doesn’t. She should not be discouraged, because we are here.

Q.- Next year you already have an internship, have you thought about it…?

O.- The truth is that a month ago we were offered to go outside Spain for an internship for three months, and it is something I would like to do: go out and see how they work in other places.

Q.- Is there anything you would like to add?

O.- I was going to apply for the Degree last year and didn’t get it because not many people signed up and I had to go back to school.

A.- I was worried that if there were not a minimum number of students, the degree would not be awarded. My mother told me that if it was necessary, the whole family would sign up for it. That’s why I encourage people to sign up, so that they don’t miss out on this training for other years.

Y.- Next year we hope to see a lot of people in the first year, boys and girls doing what we have done. We invite everyone to come.

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