A former head chef has turned the challenges of the pandemic on its head by changing career.
36-year-old Melanie Ward from Worcester has commenced a new career in construction as a site assistant at Living Space Housing’s Malvern Oaks development in Herefordshire.
Ward said: “I have always been curious as to how I could get into construction, but having worked as a chef for 19 years, changing career felt like a daunting prospect.
“I was put on furlough during the first two COVID-19 lockdowns, but then made redundant. That was the impetus I needed – it was now or never.
“I contacted an agency and undertook the necessary initial training. I was so delighted to be offered a position by Living Space – at a time when so many of my former colleagues were still out of work.”
Ward continued: “I had the privilege of being trained by a kind and patient man called Keith, who was retiring.
“He taught me so much about how I needed to contribute to all the different stages of build.
“He showed me how to set up for an air test, which is part of the building regulations requirements, how to prepare homes for plastering, decorating, snagging, and lots of other jobs that need doing in the lead up to a home completion.
“Since Keith has retired, I am really enjoying learning off Martin – the project manager, and Graham – the site manager.
“Changing career was the best thing I ever did. The pay is better, the hours are better, and I get to work outdoors. You don’t need a gym membership working in this role!
“I know it’s rare to work on a site like Malvern Oaks, which has such beautiful scenery, but I’ll keep enjoying the views until the site is completed and I need to move on to the next project.”
Malvern Oaks is a six-acre development site featuring 32 homes being delivered on behalf of Stonewater for affordable rent and shared ownership, together with 19 open market properties.
Located off Pixiefields in the picturesque village of Cradley, the £12m scheme benefits from enviable views of the Malvern Hills.
The development comprises a total of 51 two, three and four-bedroom family homes and bungalows. All but the final home has already been matched with buyers, well ahead of the build schedule.
Matin Gaffney, project manager for Living Space Housing, said: “It is very rare to see a female in such a hands-on site-based role.
“Mel’s work ethic is fantastic – she picks things up very quickly and she doesn’t let me down. It was a bit of a shock to everyone else based here when Mel first started, as she is the only female construction worker at Malvern Oaks.
“However, the impact she has across the site is tremendous. As an industry, we need to be far more proactive in attracting many more women into site-based positions.”
Living Space Housing launched to the market in 2019 and is currently constructing seven residential developments across middle England, with a number of additional sites in the planning system.
The combined construction value of its development portfolio is in excess of £72m, which equates to 580 affordable houses, apartments, and bungalows.
Are you a social housing professional? Sign up for a FREE MEMBERSHIP to upload news stories, post job vacancies, and connect with colleagues on our secure social feed.