Katie Smith’s Ability to Overcome the Odds

Credit: Katie Smith

Katie Smith is nearly 30 years old and currently an apprentice studying her level three in bricklaying. She is Jelson Homes first female bricklayer since the company was established over 129 years ago.

Never did she think that she would be where she is today.

At around thirteen, she went into social service’s care due to relationship break downs within the family home and spent a year running away and generally getting into trouble. Eventually Katie was placed in a few foster homes until she finally settled at a residential children’s home just before she turned fifteen years old.

Katie never went to school and the staff at the children’s home tried to engage her in education, but it seemed impossible – once in care, the education system often leaves you behind.

As she grew up, she participated in different educational programmes, from football coaching to first aid, childcare and painting and decorating. However, she still left school without anything behind her; not one GCSE.

After failing at so many attempts, at 22 she was diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), which actually made things in life a lot clearer for her.

Going from job to job, not finding anything that suited her, but still wanting to make sure she achieved in life was proving very disheartening, though.

Around four years ago, Emma Southern, a Princes Trust/talent match support worker, could see Katie had pretty much given up and felt that nothing was going to work for her. So, a few months later, Emma contacted Katie and asked if she wanted to take part in a ‘get into construction taste week’.

A little sceptical being a woman, she nonetheless agreed and went to give it a try.

Katie was surprised but very pleased to hear the tutor say she was a natural with a trowel.

After enjoying the week and going away with the construction skills certification scheme (CSCS) card, she decided it was time to try and get herself on site. She spent a few months working on getting her CV correct and contacting companies but, ultimately, not getting a good response.

Many people seemed to not take her seriously and one employer even asked her if she was calling for her son.

She waited anxiously to hear back from jobs she had applied to. Eventually, though, she was accepted by Jelson Homes on a trial period . She was very excited about making it this far so undertook more research on the company, ensuring she knew what was needed to secure her dream career.

All the research, hard work and determination paid off.

For the three day trial period, she cycled there and back each day, working her hardest to try and earn a place.

Katie then gratefully received a phone call to say the organisation was happy to take her on after the training.

She is just coming up to her third year now and is fully qualified and studying her level three. She has learnt skills she never thought she would have; never did she think she would get this far.

It may have taken her almost fifteen years, but the message from Katie is that no matter what you go through, if you want something badly enough, you can get there if you work hard.

Back in 2018, she won the Prince’s Trust regional achiever of the year award and – not expecting to being a woman – went on to win the award for being the best apprentice in the whole of the U.K.

The support from all genders has been incredible, but especially from the men, something which actually surprised her. It was all such a fantastic time for her.

Her next goal will be to ensure no young people get lost in the system. She encourages every woman to learn a trade and thinks that learning a trade is the best thing she has achieved so far in her life.

Global Seven News

Written by Katie Smith

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