Rylie Sweeney is an Apprentice Site Manager at Willmott Dixon | Chair of Youth Advisory Group at The Careers Enterprise Company | Youth Ambassador for Children’s Commissioner England | NAWIC North East & Tees Valley Committee.

Interviewed by our Marketing team at NFB, Rylie was able to fill us in on what her journey as an apprentice has been like within the construction industry and gives advice to others who are thinking about starting an apprenticeship.

Q1. How were you introduced to the construction industry?

“I was introduced to the industry through work experience, this was my first real taste of what It would be like to work within the industry. While I was at technical college in year 10 to 11, I took part in 13 work experience programs across different industries and construction stood out. I was able to work on a real-world project and speak to people within the industry. I did work experience with Willmott Dixon which was my first introduction to the company and then a couple months later I applied for their apprenticeship program. Now 2 years on I have been an apprentice with Willmott Dixon for over a year now.” 

Q2. What made you want to begin an apprenticeship? 

“During work experience I realised the impact it had on my personal and professional development. Work experience allowed me to develop the key skills and I loved being in the workplace getting a hands-on experience. I really struggled in education from a young age, I was just not really engaged so I knew that continuing full time education wasn’t for me. The work experience was a key moment in my journey as it was the first time I was fully engaged and actually enjoyed learning in a long time. Seeing the benefits of 1 week work experience placements I couldn’t imagine how beneficial a 5-year apprenticeship would be.”

Q3. Who were your mentors in the industry and how are they helping you achieve your goals?

“I couldn’t pinpoint one mentor as so many have inspired me and supported me on my journey. I think it started off at college with my career’s teacher helping me every step of the way into my apprenticeship. Then coming into the industry, I have been supported massively by the team at Willmott Dixon since the beginning of my apprenticeship. There have been so many women that I have connected with who are in the construction industry, who have also been incredibly supportive and have always been there to lend some advice. Taking part in the NAWIC committee was a great way to surround myself with incredibly inspiring women, I was also lucky enough to meet great people through the NFB top 100 awards.”

Q4. How would you approach younger people thinking about entering the construction industry via an apprenticeship?

“I would say to young people go for it! It can be incredibly daunting, and I am not going to say it’s always easy because there have been some challenges along the way. Construction is a really rewarding career, every day is truly different with new challenges, opportunities, and chances to learn new things. They are lots of great people in the industry who are supportive and there is lots to learn from everyone. I would recommend taking part in work experience to get the feel for the industry and then also reaching out to people in the to gain different perspectives from people within construction.”

Q5. What have been the most rewarding and challenging parts for you in the industry?

“I would say there has been lots of highs but also lots of challenge along the way. I love that I continue to learn new things every day and I have the opportunity to constantly tackle new challenges. Challenges in construction are inevitable, so being able to think on your feet, analyse situations, and come up with effective solutions is a key skill that I continue to get better at the more experience I have. With the industry being so fast paced it can be challenging, especially when you first come into the industry but the more experience the easier it gets. I would say the two achievement I am really proud of are when we completed phase 1 of my first project. For me this was a key moment in my journey where I was able to step back and reflect on all the hard work that went into the project and the progress that I had made personally. Then being named ‘One to Watch’ at the NFB Top 100 Women in Construction awards was pretty special.”

Q6. Are there any aspects of the construction industry you would like to see grow/change going forward?

“I think there is still important work to be done to make construction a more welcoming and diverse community. There are still big misconceptions around the industry, and it means that a lot of young people are still put off by the industry. It would be great to break down these stigmas and although the industry is far from perfect, we have come along way. One of the statements I come across all the time is that young people believe ‘all careers in construction are dirty’ and this is far from the truth. There are so many amazing opportunities for young people and so many careers to explore.”

Q7. Which direction would you like to see your career head within the next 5 years?

“The next 5 years really excites me! I am looking forward to continuing my apprenticeship with Willmott Dixon. Continuing to learn/develop both professionally and personally to become the best that I can be. The project that I am on is coming to an end I can’t wait to see what next exciting project are waiting for me. I want to continue inspiring young people into the industry and working with organisations to break down the stigmas around construction”.