Our trainee Felicitas Ninon-Hilbig on TV
Whether it’s sub-zero temperatures or 40 degrees in the blazing sun: hard physical work is the name of the game in road construction. And in no other occupational field is the quota of women as low as in construction and civil engineering, at about 1.5%. We are all the more pleased that one of these courageous women decided to follow her personal career path with us in August 2021. Felicitas Ninon-Hilbig is a future road builder at the Schütz company and, together with Daniela Mackewitz from the Feickert company, the only one of her kind in Hesse. For this reason, Hessischer Rundfunk accompanied the two of them at work for a day for the programme “Maintower”. We were also on site with a mobile team to document the day for you.
“When I grow up, I’m going to be a…”
Most children have an early idea of what they want to be when they grow up – whether they want to be doctors, astronauts, law enforcement officers or even digger drivers. Most people would probably intuitively expect the latter career aspiration more from a boy. But today we have an appointment with two young apprentices who are going their very own way in a male-dominated industry – and are perfectly happy doing it. We meet Felicitas and Daniela in the morning together with some other colleagues at a construction site in Villmar. The atmosphere is relaxed and they are preparing for the upcoming appointment with Hessischer Rundfunk. We walk with Felicitas towards the new Wilhelm Schütz suction excavator, which will serve as a backdrop for the recordings, to ask her a few questions there before the TV crew arrives.
Maschall: Hi Felicitas! Why don’t you tell us something about yourself so we know who we’re dealing with?
Feli: Hello, I’m Felicitas Hilbig, 17 years old and in my first year of training as a road builder at the Schütz company.
Maschall: How did you get into road construction and had you done anything in the trade before?
Feli: Yes, I actually did a lot of handicrafts in my private life before that. Many of the people around me work in the trades. My grandfather and my uncle, for example, both learned a trade, so I got an early insight into the field. I started helping out early on with work in the house or in the yard and was allowed to help with paving or laying bricks. Of course, I wasn’t as good then as I am now, but everyone starts small.
Maschall: What was it like for you when you started working in an area where often only “boys” work?
Feli: At the beginning I had my doubts, of course, about how I would be received. I also got the odd disbelieving look, along the lines of “Oh, a woman in construction… that can’t be anything.” But after I showed on the first day that I really wanted to do it and that I could also handle it, I was accepted and treated like a fully-fledged part of the team.
Maschall: How did your environment react when you told them that you wanted to become a road builder?
Feli: Most of them were very surprised at first. Some even thought I was just kidding and wanted to pull their leg. But when they realised that I was really serious, they supported me and were proud that I had chosen this path.
Maschall: What are your personal plans for the future?
Feli: First of all, of course, I want to finish my apprenticeship. After that, I want to do a master craftsman training in road construction and then, ideally, my foreman’s degree.
Maschall: Women and road construction – in your view also a long-term success story?
Feli: Sure! I wish that more women would dare to take the step and also learn a trade without being intimidated by the preponderance of men. And, of course, it would also be nice to have more female colleagues.
Felicitas certainly shows the courage that she would like other women to have. Self-confident, she goes to the cameraman of the Hessischer Rundfunk, who has arrived in the meantime, and supports her colleague Daniela in paving. In the process, the two of them face a multitude of questions, which they will certainly not answer for the first time, and probably not for the last. Until one day it will no longer be a rarity for women to lend a hand in road construction…