Jess Smith

Construction Management - BSc (Hons)

After setting her heart on working in the music industry, starting a degree in music composition and then changing her mind, Jess struggled with making a decision about her future career. After chatting with her family, she was accepted onto a trial placement with Morgan Sindall and was then offered a permanent position – with the condition she completed a University course. After joining our HNC in Construction and progressing on to the BSc Construction Management course, she became a member of one of the first, all-female teams to win an international construction competition and is now achieving goals she never dreamt about.

"I never thought I’d become part of the first ever all-female team to enter and win an international construction competition… it was a huge achievement! When I left school I was set on working in the music industry. I went to study music composition as an undergraduate but I soon lost my passion. I dropped out of university at the end of year one and went on to work in various low-level jobs and was pretty much floating around without a path. 

I ended up having a chat with my dad and uncle who work in the construction industry and after talking about what I enjoy and what I’m good at, they suggested Quantity Surveying as a potential career path. I went away and researched the role and became excited about the prospect. I then contacted the Area Director at Morgan Sindall and asked if I could be considered for a trial period, which was accepted. They subsequently offered me a permanent position!

A condition of my employment was that I would attend university but the course and location was up to me to propose. I found the part-time HNC in Construction at BCU and decided it was the right course for me. I initially planned to complete the HNC and go onto the degree in Quantity Surveying, but following my two years’ experience onsite and having completed the HNC, which covered a variety of topics, I felt a more technical degree would allow me to expand my technical knowledge. This led me to apply for the degree in Construction Management at BCU, which I am now studying part-time in year four of five.

I was concerned about cost but I was fortunate enough to receive a full sponsorship from my employer. I was also worried that I didn’t know enough about construction but have actually found the course to be a positive challenge throughout.

I have definitely become more confident in my own ability since studying here. I’ve learned a lot, not only about construction and the topics covered by each module but also about myself. I never saw myself getting into the team for the ASC International Design Build Competition but applied on the off-chance and ended up being a valuable member of the winning team. The experience has provided me with a great deal of confidence as well as the drive to put myself out there more often.

The workload has been quite heavy. As a part-time student, I have to fit five days’ work into four, attend university for a day and complete assignments in my own time. I am also working towards chartership and trying to juggle some form of social life in between, which can be a lot of pressure.

I would love to compete in another ASC competition on behalf of the University and see my presentation skills improve even more. My confidence in my ability to present was an issue before, but having completed a number of presentations throughout my time at BCU and the ASC competition, I have seen a great improvement. Having some well-rounded knowledge when going into a presentation has really helped.

BCU provides accredited degrees, mine is RICS and CIOB accredited, meaning I can accelerate my route to chartership compared to the alternatives available. Also, since I competed in the ASC Design Build competition I was allowed to use my contribution to the competition as credits, meaning I could drop one of my modules. This has provided me with some spare time each week where I can work on my portfolio, meaning I should be in a position to become chartered shortly after graduation.

I love the campus at BCU. I find it a really diverse environment where there’s something for everyone. Some days I like to study alone in a quiet space, whilst others I like to work with friends in an informal setting. If you want to have a break there’s plenty of places to go and get lunch or enjoy some fresh air or admire the artwork in the Parkside building

'I AM BCU' is about challenging myself. I am continuously pushing myself to be better whilst acknowledging that having fun and winding down is important too. It means seeking out opportunities, and achieving goals I never dreamt I could accomplish."

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