IT was a somewhat leftfield suggestion from a careers advisor that set Kimberley Bourne off on a route that would see her plastering and rendering for a living.
As a child she had always been fascinated by the huge machines commandeered by her father who owned a plant hire business. That, coupled with her interest in art and design, prompted her to look into a career that could combine her creative streak with a hands-on role.
The advice she was given at a careers fair encouraged her to ditch her hotel job and enrol at Darlington College. At 22-years-old she qualified as a plasterer and render and hasn’t looked back, or perhaps down, since.
After working for a couple of companies and sub-contracting for several years, Kimberley, of Brusselton near Darlington, decided to go it alone about three years ago.
Her business, Kimberley Plastering and Rendering Services Ltd, is going well and her success is proof that a woman can thrive in an environment more typically associated with burly men.
“To start with it did take its toll,” says Kimberley, 32. “There’s a lot of heavy lifting involved, lugging bags of render up and down ladders. But I see that as a real positive - it keeps me in shape and I can eat what I want!”
Stereotypes abound when it comes to construction sites, but Kimberley is clear that she has never encountered anything but positivity when she throws herself into the male-dominated mix.
“They definitely expect a man to turn up,” she says. “I often get a lot of surprised looks, a lot of people come over to see whether I really can plaster and then they’ll see that I can and they’re very, very positive about it.
"They’ll say really nice things and I’ve never come across anybody insulting. When I first went into it my dad said ‘don’t do it, you’ll get a lot of men picking on you’, but times have changed now.”
Although Kimberley admits that the work can be physically tough for a woman, she says that should be no barrier to stop any young woman out there thinking about the construction industry as a career.
“I would say that if you are prepared to muck in and be part of a team, then go for it,” she said. “But you can’t be moaning on and complaining, you’ve got to soak it up because nobody really cares if your back hurts or whatever.
“I would say to any young women thinking about it; definitely go for it. There are not enough women in construction, but it is starting to change.”