When Timnit Tessema was in her second year of university, there was a nagging question in her mind.
“What job will I have after graduating?”
Having tailored her courses around a desire to work in construction, Timnit was unsure of what opportunities lay ahead for her. In her mind back then – and possibly still in the minds of many young women today – there just weren’t that many career opportunities for women in construction.
Years later (as a successful Project Engineer at Multiplex), she thought to herself: if only she had a better understanding of the industry, she wouldn’t have been so anxious about her career path.
So, together with three other women in Multiplex, she co-founded Jump Start – a revolutionary school program that’s not only changing the way girls perceive the construction industry but also introducing them to new possibilities in their lives.
Launching the Jump Start program
Jump Start is an award-winning mentoring initiative that gives young women in high school a more holistic view of the construction industry via workshops, panel discussions, site walks, and mentoring sessions.
The program works with high schools across Australia, providing interested students in Years 9-12 an in-depth look at what the industry is really like.
But it’s not all talks and presentations – students are also taken to, and guided through, actual building projects. This unparalleled access gives them a real-world experience of the industry and valuable understanding of the many opportunities available to women in construction.
With Jump Start, girls can see for themselves that the construction industry is broader, better, and more diverse than they think.
Jump Start is the program Timnit wished she had as a young student, and she drew from her own experiences in developing the program.
“As school students, we weren’t given an opportunity to learn about the different career options within the built environment, and we had to rely on trial and error to find what was right for us. We want to give female students a different experience.”
Demolishing stereotypes for girls in construction & building new beliefs
As a mentoring program, Jump Start aims to inform, educate, and broaden horizons for young students interested in the industry.
And central to all that is breaking down the long-held stereotypes and myths about construction and the built environment, especially among women.
“The industry is clouded by many stigmas that deter young women from entering this field.”
Jump Start shows girls that women belong in the industry just as much as men. And not only do women belong, but they’re also essential.
“We all understand by now that having a diverse team leads to better innovation and cohesion in a team.”
But diversity in the construction industry still has a long way to go.
“The essence of construction management and successful delivery is teamwork and collaboration. But the notion of teamwork in construction often connotes ‘brotherhood’.”
“It’s time there was a bigger ‘sisterhood’ in the industry.”
With Jump Start, Timnit also hopes to show girls that women can enter the industry from the start, and not just as a secondary path in their careers.
“I’ve networked with so many women in my company and in the industry, and we noticed that many of us faced the same narrative – one that needs to be rewritten. For many women, construction wasn’t their first career or first option. They had no idea about their pathway until they were already in their degree or well into their careers.”
This is why a key point of difference from any other program in the industry, is that Jump Start works not just with young students, but also their extended communities.
“We not only educate these young women, but we also aim to educate their educators, career advisors, and parents to ensure accurate information is being distributed.”
By breaking down stereotypes and providing a more accurate look at the industry, Jump Start helps foster not only the students’ natural interest in construction and but helps provide guidance for their support networks to empower them to pursue it if they choose.
The company laying the pathways for girls into construction
Timnit shares her pride in working for a company like Multiplex whose support has helped grow the program. Recognizing the value and benefits of having more women in the industry, Multiplex was keen on progressing Jump Start from a workplace initiative to a full-fledged program.
“Multiplex has completely taken the Jump Start program on board.”
Jump Start’s pilot program ran in 2019 in Sydney, taking a group of female high school students to the company’s iconic One Denison Street project in North Sydney. It then provided a series of mentoring sessions, workshops, and panel discussions to enrich the students’ experiences.
It was a resounding success for everyone.
For Multiplex, the Jump Start program was a natural extension of their core purpose as a company: to construct a better future. And they’re making sure that future includes many more women in the industry.
“I have seen students who were in our pilot program in 2019 now start to enter the construction workforce – I am most proud of that. I am proud that change is happening, and I can assist with that.”
Multiplex offers industry-leading parental leave, annual gender pay equity reviews, and other benefits and policies that empower women in construction.
Multiplex now rolls out Jump Start across Australia, including projects in Queensland, Western Australia, and the Australian Capital Territory. The company also proudly runs Jump Start on every project in New South Wales.
Working towards the ultimate goal
Even with the success of Jump Start, Timnit knows that change in the industry is only getting started.
“The ultimate goal is to reach a point where the Jump Start program is no longer required. When there are so many women in our industry that diversity and percentages of women in construction are not a topic of conversation anymore.”
Until then, Timnit and the Jump Start team will keep paving the way for women to break barriers in the industry.
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