Leanne relocated from Wales back to her hometown of Darlington - with the move she was required to change careers. Initially, Leanne was just looking for a job to come home to. Without any qualifications other than GCSEs and a couple of A-Levels, Leanne relied on her life experience and her keenness to learn.

After securing a position with National Highways (formerly Highways England), Leanne was encouraged to train and upskill by her line manager. She said:

“My employers are huge advocates for learning development - just shy of a year of transitioning into my new role as a Commercial Assistant in a brand-new industry, my line manager offered an opportunity to further my skills, expand my knowledge, gain qualifications and set the wheels well and truly in motion for my new career pathway to become a Quantity Surveyor at National Highways.”

In September 2019, Leanne started studying Level 4 HNC Construction in the Built Environment at New College Durham.

“I perceived Level 4 to be a sort of foundation level to ease me into the academic world of construction. For me, this was the perfect level and course choice for me to start off with, rather than going in straight at degree level.”

Having gotten over the initial shock of being the only female on the course, Leanne had built fantastic relationships with her peers and tutors.

“There were top facilities, the classes were engaging and informative. I had everything under control and was heading in the right direction.”

Two weeks before Leanne’s first assignment was due, she received some heartbreaking news.

“My dad had had a stroke. No indication. No warning. He’d fallen into a coma. After nine days of being on life support, we lost him. My whole world had been turned upside down and I struggled to digest what had happened and how I was going to readjust. Then, only six weeks later my beloved nana passed away also. Covid-19 had reared its head for the first time.”

Overcome with grief, Leanne missed numerous classes, fell behind and had to go through mitigation.

“After discussion with my tutors, I was determined to continue, reach that goal and achieve what I had set out to achieve.”

Leanne worked through most of her summer holiday to catch up. When she returned for her second year, Covid-19 caused further disruption. Firstly, with having to isolate and then the restrictions that caused NCD to go into lockdown.

“I honestly felt like the universe was throwing everything at me to make me fail, but through strength, determination, drive, commitment and the amazing support from my peers and tutors, I succeeded.”

Leanne reaped the rewards of her perseverance as she recently achieved distinction grades across the board in every one of her modules.

“Completing the HNC course assisted in my promotion at work, where I am now an Assistant Quantity Surveyor. I also have an unconditional offer at Northumbria University to train to be a Chartered Quantity Surveyor.”

Leanne ended with the three things she has learnt from her journey:

“Life is full of twists, turns and changes, but from looking back on my journey I’ve learnt three things; the first is that you are never too old for a change in career, to go down a different path and to gain further education and higher qualifications. The second lesson learnt is that construction is absolutely an industry that women can and should work and achieve in. And finally, the last thing that I have learnt from my experience is that life is short so pursue your interests or take a leap of faith but no matter what life throws at you don’t give up.”

Leanne stressed the importance of education for personal and professional development, for both the employees and businesses. She ended with:

“If it wasn’t for the eventual completion of my Level 4 HNC, I certainly wouldn’t be at the point in my career of where I am today.”

Click here to watch Leanne from 1hr3