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Supporting women in construction at RAF Lakenheath

Pictured is an F35 taking off on a runway. The F35 is grey with 3 wheels. There is a little window at the front where you can see the pilot. There is grass next to the runway
RAF Lakenheath will be the first permanent international site for US Air Force F35s in Europe. [Crown Copyright/MOD2017]

We’ve spoken many times recently about our US Visiting Forces Infrastructure Programme (UIP) and the opportunities it offers for a range of people. Our specific focus in this blog is on women in construction and focuses on the work taking place at RAF Lakenheath. 

The UIP programme is made up of several more focused programmes to develop infrastructure at various RAF bases used by the US Air Force. 

The most advanced of these is the RAF Lakenheath F35 programme. RAF Lakenheath will be the first permanent international site for US Air Force F35s in Europe. 

In November 2018, DIO awarded a £160 million contract to joint venture Kier VolkerFitzpatrick (KVF) to focus on partnership working. Construction is now progressing on the first set of projects to prepare the airbase in Suffolk for the arrival of two new squadrons of US F35s in 2021. 

As part of our efforts to involve the wider community we are looking at spreading the word about the many and varied careers in the construction industry and how women are involved in this sterotypically male-dominated profession. 

As part of our outreach KVF and DIO are attending events at colleges and other locations throughout the local area to spread the word about careers in construction. A focus at a recent event at West Suffolk College has been ‘women in construction’. Rebecca Dunn from our partner Kier will be speaking to local students about her career and her current role in the Lakenheath project to encourage more young women to think about careers in construction. Rebecca is a Senior BIM Coordinator at Kier Construction Eastern and is responsible for the development and implementation of the Digital Construction Strategy for the Company within the East Anglia region which includes RAF Lakenheath. 

 This also provides a perfect opportunity to speak to some of the women in DIO involved in the RAF Lakenheath construction project. 

 Steph Cooper – UIP Communications and Engagement Manager  

Steph has brown hair and has her hair up in a ponytail. She is wearing a dark navy jumped and gold heart necklace.
Steph Cooper is responsible for supporting project managers with finance, data sharing and a range of communications. [Crown Copyright/MOD2019]

Steph has worked within the Armed Forces for many years in various roles. She joined DIO in 2016 doing an admin support role at RAF Mildenhall. After a year she provided support to the Additional Works Team within project assurance which involved checking that the construction work was meeting the timescales in the project plan. This experience with US airbases in the UK led her to join the UIP as a project support officer but it soon became clear that there was a gap in stakeholder communications and engagement for the programme and that is Steph’s current role.  The work requires knowledge of the construction world as she is responsible for supporting project managers with finance, data sharing and a range of communications. Steph has a business degree and is currently completing a Level 5 CMI NVQ in operational management. Although her role isn’t directly related to bricks and mortar Steph is keen for people to understand the importance of the enabling roles within construction. Without the support she provides with finance, outreach and working out ways to share data safely and effectively the UIP wouldn’t be able to deliver its various projects to time and budget. 

Claire Bushnell – UIP Assistant Head of Governance and Strategic Engagement  

Claire is pictured infront of a white board. She has brown hair and is wearing a black shirt with brown cardigan
Claire Bushnell is responsible for looking at the overall governance structure of UIP. [Crown Copyright/MOD2019]

In January 2019, Claire began her new role in DIO as Assistant Head for Governance and Strategic Engagement. She is responsible for looking at the overall governance structure of the UIP and how it fits into the DIO and MOD strategy. She also works on improving relationships between DIO and our stakeholders through construction projects so that project work can be completed. Claire has worked in various roles within DIO for the past 20 years working her way from an admin role in facilities management then moving into a more technical role as an environmental adviser. This has allowed her to use her experience in difficult locations including a secondment to Bosnia.  DIO supported Claire to undertake her degree (BSC Honours in Environmental Science) in 2006 along with support to undertake specific ecological licences in bat and newt handling, which allowed her to carry out the role and help in conserving important species and sites within the USVF bases. She did this role for many years and gathered a range of both technical and stewardship knowledge about the USVF  including NATO agreements, cost sharing and knowledge of US Defence sites in the UK. After several years, Claire wanted to learn more about major projects and wanted a more well-rounded career so she applied her range of technical knowledge in her current role helping the delivery team to push forward in completing construction projects for UIP. Claire feels strongly about developing and supporting women to further their careers and help them take the opportunities available to them in construction across DIO. 

Melia Tuer - Assistant Head of Governance and Strategic Engagement 

Melia is wearing a white hard hat. She has black glasses, a pink shirt and long brown hair. She is sitting in a car.
Melia Tuer looks after specialist teams within UIP including finance, budgets, risk and assurance. [Crown Copyright/MOD2019]

Meila works along with Claire as Assistant Head of Governance and Strategic Engagement. Melia’s current role involves looking after specialist teams within UIP including finance, budgets, risk and assurance. She has a town planning degree but was more interested in becoming a Quantity Surveyor so she joined a consultancy firm in London where she was supported to obtain the necessary qualifications needed including becoming accredited by the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (RICS). Her career as a Quantity Surveyor then took her around the world including working on a range of projects in places like Scotland, France, Germany, Sweden, the Czech Republic and Australia. Amelia relished the opportunities to travel and was pleased that her experience and qualifications meant she never struggled to find work. When she moved back from Australia she got a job working for DIO in the accommodation team. When her current role was advertised she jumped at the challenge. She enjoys the work-life balance that her role in DIO gives her and she would urge women to investigate the variety of careers in the construction industry. You can be on site in a hard hat but there are also many other roles such as ecology, skilled trades, sound engineers and much more. Meila was drawn to the industry as she wanted to be a part of a team in which you can see how your work contributes to the building of something significant and she would encourage others interested in this type of work to get involved. 

Look our for jobs in construction on Civil Service jobs and our LinkedIn page.

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