Pat Johnston, trainee carpenter with affordable housing developer Lovell, talks about how she got into the business and what it's like being a woman in a man's world
What kind of work do you do?
I work on a range of Lovell sites covering all aspects of carpentry work, and I'm aiming to get to NVQ level 3 by the end of the summer.

Why did you decide to become a carpenter?
After giving birth to my second child, I had a career break and then decided I didn't want to go back to a desk job. I wanted to use my hands and I've always been interested in how things are made, so I took up a carpentry course at my local college – it was out of interest rather than because I thought I'd actually start a career as a carpenter.

How did you end up working at Lovell?
Last January, my tutor at Southgate College in Enfield told me about an organisation set up to help women break into the building trade – Building Work for Women.

I couldn't get a job as a trainee carpenter at the time so I contacted them and they offered me a 12-week placement on a Lovell site in east London.

The support I got from Building Work for Women was great; they paid for my childcare, gave me an allowance for tools and a weekly spending allowance. It was just wonderful. Lovell invited me to carry on my training at their Craft Management Academy, which opened last May.

What's the academy like?
There are 30 of us there, with just two women, including myself. We attend the academy for one week every two months – most people will attend for a total of six weeks. Some are training to be bricklayers, the others carpenters like me.

The tutors are great and extremely supportive. I'm the only one approaching NVQ level 3 so a lot of the time I work on my own projects.

I think the idea of the academy is excellent as it helps Lovell achieve some conformity in its standards.

What is it like training with a group of young lads?
I think they are a bit bemused by me – not just because I'm a woman, but because of my age as well.

We get along fine, though it can be hard for some of the boys. Some are as young as 16 and away from home for the first time. They find it hard to budget their pay!

How do you feel being a woman has affected your chances of success?
It's harder for women to be taken seriously on site. I didn't think I'd get a job. You need to build up a lot of confidence before you feel able to charge people for your services.

I don't think I'd have got this far without my partner's support. He's been there to help with the kids and cheer me along.

So how about the future?
I haven't yet spent a whole year on site – so I'd like to continue building up my experience and my confidence.

Carpentry has so much to it, it takes a long time to train. But I love it, and I'd like to stay with Lovell.

Personal details

Current job
Trainee carpenter with Lovell
Employment history
More than 15 years as a housing officer in London
About to achieve an NVQ level 3 in carpentry Lives Chingford, Essex
Partner and two kids aged six and three