Sally Cave breaks the male dominance of the construction sector

28 Mar


Following the completion of a NVQ Level II in Gas Membrane Installation, Sally Cave, a 28-year-old Project Manager at Doncaster Membrane Installation Ltd (DMI), has become the first qualified female gas membrane installer and Training Assessor in the UK; and has received high praise from three leading trade organisations in the process.

Sally Cave on site web

Sally’s achievement is even more remarkable given the way men dominate the construction industry. According to UCATT, the trade union for the construction industry, women make up only 11 per cent of the construction workforce and just 1 per cent of workers on site. The Office for National Statistics says that the number of women working as roofers, bricklayers and glaziers is so low that it is unmeasurable.

Sally, who lives in Sheffield, has worked at the family owned business since 2013 and began studying for her qualification in 2014. It now means she can oversee the fitting of membranes on construction sites where there is deemed to be a risk of gas ingress from
the strata below the buildings.

Achieving the NVQ is just one step along the career development path that Sally has set out for herself, as she explains; “When I started work here in 2013, I was doing one day a week on admin tasks helping out my dad who started the company in 1993, when I was only four. I quickly realised that I could hardly tell the lads what to do unless I fully understood all the processes involved, so I enrolled to study through the Construction Industry Training Board (CITB) approved British Geomembrane Association (BGA) course. It meant being out on site a lot, which I found I loved doing; even though I never really envisaged myself being out managing projects. Yes, this is a very male dominated industry, but I get total respect from everyone in the team because they know I can do exactly what they can irrespective of my gender,” said Sally.

Sally was presented with her NVQ Level II certificate by Martin Cockcroft, the new Chair of the BGA. “Sally has clearly shown that there are no barriers of personal development in our industry with the right training, support and motivation. On behalf of the BGA I would like to congratulate Sally on her achievement,” said Martin.

Sally Cave and Martin Cockcroft web

Sarah Beale, CEO at CITB, commented: “It’s great that Sally has become the first woman to complete this qualification, and we want many more people from all backgrounds to follow her. CITB encourages diversity in the industry – no matter who you are or where you come from, construction has opportunities for all. Congratulations again to Sally, I wish her the very best for her future career.”

DMI is affiliated to Build UK, which has also praised Sally for her achievement.

“It is always a great pleasure to see someone achieve professional standards and qualifications in their chosen occupation and huge congratulations to Sally as the first woman to gain this specialist qualification. We are an industry of opportunity and as Sally has demonstrated it is an industry that is #notjustforboys.” said Suzannah Nichol MBE, Chief Executive of Build UK, the trade organisation that provides a strong collective voice for the construction industry by bringing together clients, main contractors and trade associations representing over 11,500 specialist contractors.

The NVQ course covered a wide range of subjects including Health and Safety, Personal Protective Equipment, ventilation, gas dilution and installation as well as all the regulations surrounding installations.

“Gaining the qualification is important for my long-term plans,” says Sally “I really enjoy the training side of things and hope to develop a training school that becomes a beacon of excellence for the industry. DMI already runs upskilling courses for general construction workers that want to be able to lay membranes and move on to become qualified technicians. Unfortunately, we are still seeing unqualified people laying membranes - which is a really dangerous practice as inadequately laid membranes can be killers.”


Notes to Editors:

According to the BGA, the trade association that represents specialist installers, the gas membrane protection industry has approximately 200 specialist companies operating in the UK, including DMI which is a member of the BGA. The sector in which DMI operates came into being in the late 1980’s. Alongside qualified and approved companies like DMI, there is a very large unregulated market in self-installation or installation by “ground-workers” which is potentially ten times larger than the qualified one. There is also a volume of unregulated self-installation with poor quality materials and techniques being used on installations.

Gas membranes become a requirement where a new building is being erected on land that may have been contaminated at one point or is over disused mine works, leading to a risk of gas ingress into the building as happened on a housing estate in Gorebridge, Scotland. 64 council houses had to be demolished and rebuilt due to Carbon Dioxide (CO2) from old coal mines was found to be leaking into the houses; six people were hospitalised with suspected CO2 poisoning.

Certain construction projects require everyone on site to be qualified installers before they can even touch a membrane. Site Project Managers and third party verifiers are tasked with making sure everyone on site is qualified under the Construction Design and Management regulations 2015.

About CITB:
CITB is the Industrial Training Board (ITB) for the construction industry in Great Britain (England, Scotland and Wales). CITB ensures employers can access the high quality training their workforce needs and supports industry to attract new recruits into successful careers in construction.
Using its evidence base on skills requirements, CITB works with employers to develop standards and qualifications for the skills industry needs now, and in the future. CITB is improving its employer funding to invest in the most needed skills and by making it easier for companies of all sizes to claim grants and support.