Amber Burnell works as a general operative at RSK Habitat Management. She won one of the most prestigious women’s awards in the UK for the progress she has made since joining RSK in November 2021.
Despite facing challenges such as severe ADHD and mental health struggles, Amber has made such a huge impression on her colleagues within the industry that she was recently filmed for HS2 talking about being named Women’s Champion of the Year at the Women into Construction CIC Awards held last month. This is her story.
Amber Burnell has come an incredibly long way over the last two years. It’s hard to believe that only two years ago, she decided to join Women into Construction (WiC) after dabbling in a number of short-term jobs and study courses – but ultimately, it turned out to be the best decision she ever made.
Not long after she completed a home builders’ course with WiC and decided it was time for some job security, lockdown happened and threw everything off course, as was the case for thousands of people across the country.
But Amber wanted to persevere with her career prospects, completing some virtual work experience with HS2, in which she made some excellent connections and even joined an agency that she hoped would help her find the big career break she was looking for.
Shortly afterwards, the agency sent her CV to RSK. The company gave Amber a job at RSK Habitat Management, and what’s more, was happy and able to support her with her health.
“I joined RSK in November last year and haven’t looked back since,” says Amber. “RSK people have been so supportive: they even help out with dog care, as I am the only carer for my dog! Whatever I need, RSK has been happy to provide it and always goes above and beyond to help me.”
Amber’s work at RSK Habitat Management can involve anything from fencing and planting to manning sites, and she’s made such good progress that it certainly hasn’t gone unnoticed.
“When I started, I was extremely shy, I barely spoke,” she explains. “Now I’m giving presentations! I was so pleased to hear I had been nominated for the Women’s Champion of the Year award. It was between me and six other women in the country and I was picked!
“On the night, I made a speech talking about my journey from college and how both WiC and RSK have supported me along the way.”
Since giving her award speech, Amber has been receiving some fantastic feedback, with many describing it as “amazing”. In fact, it went down so well that she was asked by staff she had worked with on her virtual course at HS2 to film a segment for them, which Amber was only too thrilled to do.
“I went out on-site and talked about how HS2 helped me get into long-term work. There were a lot of retakes and it was quite nerve-racking speaking to the camera but I was absolutely buzzing after it,” she says.
“I’m still buzzing from both that and the awards night. After my speech, I felt absolutely brilliant. I was shaking like a leaf, but people kept telling me how natural I was; I felt so good about myself.”
In the future, Amber plans to build herself up through RSK and eventually become a supervisor, but for now, she plans to enjoy doing the job she’s made so much progress in during the past couple of years.
And as for others who might be struggling with similar conditions to ADHD or mental health issues, Amber has one message: don’t give up. “Never ever give up, because there’ll always be an employer out there who will support you, no matter the challenges you face,” she says. “RSK has been so great to me. Also, there is no age limit. I was 30 before I got into full-time employment. There is no limit to anything you can do.”
Commenting on Amber’s achievements, Julie Venn-Morton, HS2’s Skills Manager for the West Midlands, said, “During the pandemic, we wanted to ensure that under-represented groups continued to be supported to develop their skills and gain access to the vast number of opportunities on HS2. In response, we launched a bespoke virtual training programme aimed at preparing individuals for a career in the construction industry.
“It’s great to hear that Amber’s hard work has paid off, and her success at the Women into Construction CIC Awards is further testament to her resilience and professionalism,” she added.