Queensland based Jessica Manley has spent her career forging her own path in the construction industry, and today reaps the rewards of working in a job she loves as a construction estimator for Superior Walls & Ceilings.
Like many young people leaving school, Jessica Manley wasn’t sure of the career path she wanted to take. Now a successful construction estimator for Superior Walls & Ceilings in Queensland, Manley proudly speaks of some of the iconic infrastructure projects she has helped deliver throughout the state.
Manley says her career in construction began when she was considering a gap year before entering the workforce. “I’d just finished school and knew I wanted to take a gap year at some point, but I needed money first and so I took a role with my parents’ residential plastering company in Brisbane before travelling for six months,” she says.
When she returned, Manley jumped straight back into the business, eventually starting her apprenticeship in plastering – where she was given the opportunity to participate in the 2020 Association of Wall and Ceiling Industries Apprentice Challenge.
“At the event I met an employee of Superior Walls & Ceilings who spoke very highly of the business,” says Manley. “He offered me the opportunity to come on board as a commercial plasterer, and I jumped at it.”
“The commercial side of plastering is completely different to residential, so it was a big shock, but being thrown straight on the tools for 14 months and with an amazing team backing me, I quickly excelled.”
During her apprenticeship with Superior Walls & Ceilings, Manley worked on the Brisbane Cruise Terminal with the façade crew, installing 52-kilogram sheets often at heights in excess of seven metres – a project that won Best Commercial Façade at the 2021 Association of Wall & Ceiling Industries Awards.
In 2019, Manley was responsible for finishing high end feature walls and ceilings at Hansen Yuncken’s University of Sunshine Coast New Campus project, and in 2020 was part of the finishing crew for the highly detailed Amazon Head Office Brisbane Buildcorp Project.
Manley chased her next opportunity for career growth in 2021, reaching out to the Superior Walls & Ceilings head office for an estimating role. Brett Evans, Director of Operations for Superior Walls & Ceilings says the company saw it as a unique opportunity to bring real world knowledge to a role typically dominated by university graduates.
“We soon learned that this pathway adds much more value to the cost planning role for a subcontractor, as labour is generally the critical element in whether subcontractors are successful or not,” Evans adds.
“Given Jess has been on site, and seen real world application, she has been able to give even experienced estimators new understanding of production rates. Her introduction to the role has now opened the company’s eyes to new pathways when recruiting estimators and project managers.”
In just under two years in the estimating role, Manley has worked on Lendlease’s Tweed Valley Hospital Project where she was responsible for the procurement of sub-trades during the tender phase, and directly responsible for 12 different and complex trade categories. She was responsible for measuring the walls and ceilings package, assisting the project teams in controlling labour budget and procuring raw materials on the $1.3 billion major infrastructure project.
She was the lead estimator on Mirvac’s $300 million Anura Apartments Project – a complex two tower development. On top of measuring and pricing the ceilings and partitions package, Manley was responsible for procurement of eight separate trades for the project. Due to the high-end nature of the units, she had weeks of design work to compile involving engagement of structural, fire and wind engineers in order to deliver the most economical solution to the client. Adding to the list, Manley was also responsible for procurement of sub-trades during the tender phase of John Holland’s $50 million St Andrew’s Hospital Project.
Looking back at the projects she’s worked on, Manley says the best part is seeing the project after completion and knowing she was a part of its delivery.
“On a daily basis I’m dealing with big numbers, big packages and big infrastructure – it still blows my mind that I’m a part of these huge projects,” she explains. “I didn’t need a university degree to be in a role and industry that I love, I built my own pathway.”
To date, Manley has been involved in the builders’ cost phase of many major pipeline projects, helping builders and developers compile their cost plans before they can go to market with the applicable tenders. In total, she has been responsible for $60 million of cost advice over six projects for Multiplex, $48 million of cost advice over three projects for John Holland, and $14 million of cost advice over six projects for Lendlease.
Learnt throughout her already fruitful career, Manley has advice for those looking to enter a career in construction: “Do it – you feel strong, you feel empowered as a woman being surrounded by men and your capabilities keep exceeding.”
“I put myself out there and it was scary, but it’s definitely reaped its rewards. There are endless pathways into the construction industry and many doors open for you along the way if you work hard.”