Case study: construction apprenticeship

Published on 21/06/2022

Meet Savannah Williams Duberry, 23, an Architecture Assistant Apprentice at L&Q.

Savannah works at Addiscombe Road, a vibrant and sustainable residential development in Croydon that will create 137 new homes, including 53% affordable housing.

Born and raised in London, Savannah was looking for a career with purpose. Her natural curiosity and eye for design made her an ideal person for a construction-based role.

“I was always intrigued by the industry and the creative side of designing a building, out of all my interests, the common denominator was architecture.” says Savannah.

Savannah started her apprenticeship in September 2019 within L&Q’s Development and Sales department.

“The apprenticeship route was a good one as the opportunity to gain on the job training in the design field is rare. Not only am I working towards a degree level qualification, but I’m also gaining exposure to live projects and industry professionals through working on site.”

Every day brings different challenges and that is what Savannah says makes it an exciting field to work in.

“No day is ever the same. You’re always learning something new by being around different parts of the team”, says Savannah.

“Working for a developer that is also a housing association means I’m not just tied to the architectural side of things.

“Whether it is dealing with planning applications, following building regulations or assessing design proposals, I’ve gained an understanding of the whole construction process inside and out and from start to finish. 

“All of this comes together when you’re on site and it’s amazing to see the project you’re working on take shape and come to life”, she continues.

Outsiders can take a dim view of the construction industry’s image, often associating it with muddy boots and a ‘boys club’ culture. Whilst the stereotypes point to a perception issue, experiences like Savannah’s debunk the myth that the industry is only for men.

“I’ve managed to settle in well. I can only speak for my own experience, but nothing has made me feel uncomfortable, and I am sure others will say the same.”

“Everyone is here for the sole purpose of getting the job done. Because of that, we work well in a team and people look out for each other. It’s a positive environment to work in”, Savannah says.

Savannah was aware of the industry’s lack of diversity – but she didn’t let it deter her from taking a leap of faith into the world of construction.

Savannah says: “I put any fears I had to the back of my mind. I knew I wouldn’t be the only female wanting to go into a male dominated career path, and there would be women like me both on site and in the office. The idea of a male-dominated field is a stereotype.”

She encourages those keen to follow in her footsteps to go for it.

“If we let our fears stop us, we will never solve the problems that stem from a lack of diversity. We need to be brave and put ourselves out there.

“Besides, diversity benefits us all. Everyone is going to have a different backgrounds and outlooks. Once you put all of those together, it enlightens everyone.”

What does the future have in store for Savannah? Alongside further qualifications, she sees herself at L&Q in the long-term.

“In five years’, time I hope to have completed my Architectural Assistant degree and be working towards my level 7 architecture degree in the Design and Technical team.”

Vicky Savage, Executive Director of Development at L&Q, said: “Construction isn’t just about hard hats and steel capped boots. It’s also about innovation, technology, great design, and placemaking. If we are going to solve this housing crisis, then we need more people like Savannah to join us in that mission.

“Construction is for everyone no matter your gender, ethnic or social background or what school or university you attended. You can get to the top and have a brilliant, rewarding and well-paid career.”

Fewer than one in ten young people would consider a career in construction, even though more than half are interested in subjects that qualify them for the industry, research by L&Q has revealed.

Learning to Succeed (LtS) is a £1 million programme that is seeking to address the sector’s image issues by offering free STEM education lessons and careers advice to 30 schools in 12 London Boroughs.

From an initial aim of engaging 4,000 pupils, L&Q has now held sessions online and in-person with more than 16,000 students.

Each pupil receives one to one support and a bespoke action plan to help them consider their future career path.

The second phase is due to launch later this summer.