After 13 years in investment banking, Linda Wheaton is training for a career in carpentry. She explains why construction is better than finance – especially for women
You were looking for a change of career. What made you choose construction?
The recruitment company I worked for was hit quite badly by 11 September and had to make me redundant. I've always enjoyed building things and my father used to work in the construction industry. My work as an estate agent had given me some knowledge of the job and I'm interested in why people design the buildings that they do.

How did you get on this course?
I looked into all the construction trades and came up against the fact that there were no options for middle-aged women who wanted a career change. The 16-24 age group is well catered for but it took me about nine months to find an introductory course for women of all ages run by Women's Education In Building. That got me interested in carpentry. I then got onto my current course, an intermediate construction award in carpentry – like the NVQ level 2, but without the on site experience. It's two days a week and very flexible.

Are you enjoying it so far?
I'm enjoying it a lot. It's wonderful to get out of the head and into the hands. There's a real split among my friends – half think I'm crazy, and half are envious. I have a growing list of things they want me to fix for them – everyone's house seems to be falling down!

What are your long-term career plans?
I'd love to do a course in plastering, as it's a very valuable skill and goes hand in glove with carpentry. I'd then like to gain some on site experience. Ultimately, I'd like to set up my own firm as I think there's a real shortage of women-run businesses in construction.

Why do you think women haven't gone into construction in the past?
The physical side is a factor – it's obviously easier for young men to follow these trades, but if you're reasonably fit there's no reason why anyone shouldn't be able to do it. And people think you get a hard time as a woman, but I'm amazed by how supportive the men on my course are. I came across much more sexism in banking than I have so far in construction.

What needs to be done to encourage more women to follow you?
It's great that there are now people and companies who provide training funds and support – we need more of that. I'd like to see a change happen in schools to open teachers' minds about women in construction so that they encourage girls to consider construction careers. The public perception needs to change; there's been an incredible evolution in behaviour on building sites in the past 13 years, but the public still has an negative view of what goes on there.

Linda Wheaton

Age 41

Lives Battersea, London

Qualifications MA in psychology

Career history I used to be an estate agent in South Africa. I moved to the UK 13 years ago, and worked for the investment banking wing of J Henry Schroder, now part of Citigroup. I left in 1999 to help set up a City recruitment company.

Hobbies I make jewellery, and I do a lot of reading. I run regularly and I enjoy good wine and opera.