“In a previous life, I was a professional baker and cake decorator. I just got married and made my own cake and decorated it. It was stacked with three tiers. So yes, a big difference between what I used to do and what I do now.
"My dad has always been a handyman type of guy. His main profession was working in the steel sector and he was always doing things around the house. I'd follow him around watching him so I picked up things from him. About three years ago one of my dad’s close friends needed a labourer and I was between jobs so I went and did some labouring work for him. He actually worked for APS but he had his own small business and contracted out labourers to APS. So I worked for him for almost two years and then made the switch to working for APS direct.
"I’ve been doing my apprenticeship just over a year now and am keen to progress at a bit of a faster rate than I have been so far. APS has started a new programme whereby they want to keep the apprentices in the company and they want to help support them and make a commitment to their future. There’s four of us doing apprenticeships at the moment. With a previous employer, I decided that I wanted to do an apprenticeship in carpentry but they said, “what about drafting or architecture?” as I don’t think they thought a woman could be a carpenter!
"I’ve always been a hands-on person and enjoy creating things. I’ve done quite a bit of painting and many years ago I had my own art show. I’ve enjoyed dabbling with things and I never really thought that being a woman in the construction industry was something I’d want to venture into. Once I got my labouring job my gender didn’t matter. I’ve been treated as an equal. I only wish that I’d realised this at a younger age as it would have motivated me to get involved sooner. In my view, it’s one of the most rewarding careers you can have in terms of the trades. You get to see the project on paper and then get to build it and see the end result that you can be proud of.
"It’s funny that there is a perception from many that people that get into trades aren’t that smart, yet some of the most intelligent people I have come across are builders. You have to be such a good problem solver.
"My father is very happy that I’m working in a trade. Playing with his tools in the workshop when I was a kid has paid off! My dad is Scottish and my mum is from Nuie. The physical component of the job isn’t too bad. There are times when I’ll be lifting things but it hasn’t been too difficult for me. I ask for help when I have to. I think I attribute that to my Island genes! I’ve only come across a couple of guys who try to push themselves too much. Most of them are pretty sensible when it comes to lifting heavy loads.
"I want to stay in carpentry and maybe spend some time building in residential and to use the skills I’ve learnt building my own house. Long term I’d be interested in engineering. I’m really interested in how things work so who knows. Civil or electrical engineering interests me.
"The best thing about my job is getting to see the final result of something that you’ve helped create. It’s so rewarding for me.
"When I first go on site my male colleagues might treat me a little differently but it doesn’t take long until they treat me just like any workmate. I’ve found that some of the older guys take a little bit longer but the younger guys are more accepting. I think it’s the preconceived idea of how a female is treated in general and I think they are getting used to seeing more and more women in construction. It’s just until they get to know me.
"I’m really proud of being recognised by APS along with three other apprentices. They could see that we wanted to take our careers seriously and they wanted to invest in us and help further our careers and to keep us with the company. In general, when people find out you are a carpentry apprentice, you get taken seriously as it’s a hard job and not a lot of women can handle that type of job. The company and other contractors have treated me really well and the company culture is very supportive.
"Weeks vary depending on where you work, site managers and location. I can be working on up to three different sites in one week. I’m usually working 40-45 hours per week with no pressure to work Saturdays. As a whole, it’s standard hours so I get a good work-life balance.
"Outside of work I’ve got a four-year-old son so free time is spent relaxing and chilling out. I’m happy that as he goes through school he can say his mum is a builder and I know already that he is really proud of what I do. That’s a big motivator for me. My family are a great support team for us so that helps me out so much.
"I think APS saw that I really do want to do high-quality work. It doesn’t matter what type of work, I just want to do whatever I do to the best quality."
BCITO wish Sara well for her career and congratulate her on her achievements.
Unga Funoa’s interest in carpentry began as a young boy in Tonga.
If you’re looking for a straight answer to a serious question that helps the bottom line, such as who would you employ? you’ll get one if you ask Brad Sandri at Ranger Specialist Coatings.