Ingrid Ramberg, Master Painters and Decorators of Ireland President: Experiences of a changing industry on the up

by | Feb 22, 2023

Picture above is Ramberg Painters & Decorators’  Managing Director Ingrid Ramberg with her father Roy Ramberg and son Killian Walsh

Painting a Fresh Picture

“Over 16 years ago I took over the business from my father, it was the greatest challenge I thought I would face,” says Ingrid Ramberg, Managing Director at Ramberg Painters & Decorators Ltd and the first female President of the Master Painters and Decorators of Ireland (MPDI).

“It was a woman jumping into a man’s role, into a world of very few women,” she adds. “I just had to tell myself to give it a shot, despite having my own fears and doubts at times, and to take it one step at a time.”

Ramberg describes how “sometimes it would often be the little unexpected challenges” that made the biggest impact. One example she describes is taking a course related to managing the family company specialists in residential, industrial and retail sectors and “walking through the door into a room of 20 men and being the only woman.”

Those firsts can be daunting, for a moment, before steeling and then settling well into the role in question.

“It is encouraging to see the change in the industry,” she says. There is, as she sees it, a greater effort at inclusion for women and more importantly a greater engagement from women in taking up positions in the industry, and early steps in addressing the gender imbalance within construction.

“Even now I see it as I’m walking down the streets and there are female engineers, electricians and so on doing the physical work of the industry,” she says.

“Comparing it to my own experience growing up, even for me who was part of a family in the industry, it was very much a man’s job.”

In particular Ramberg recalls how years ago the very thought of a woman taking an apprenticeship was unthinkable and yet “now we are seeing that perception change.

“The mindset has changed but we need to see more because there are so many  different jobs that women can do and contribute to  the industry,” she adds.

Reflecting on her own life she questions whether young women realise the industry opportunities there are for them in the or the value an apprenticeship can bring. “If I could return to my twenties now, I would definitely be on site and doing the work,” she says.

“There is so much to learn and to be involved in with an apprenticeship.” She describes how in painting there is no room for error.

Involving a keen understanding of the materials you’re working with and a tremendous amount of preparation work, the lessons learned via the apprenticeship route and subsequently the career it leads to are incredibly rewarding.

“This business is always advancing and always changing. There is always something new,” Ramberg adds. “To young school leavers, I would say don’t be afraid. If there’s some part of you that thinks you might be interested in a career in  this industry then you should try.”

Ingrid remarks on how there is a perception that the only route to a sustainable career is an academic one.

“Not everybody is an academic. Don’t be afraid that being a woman excludes you from doing this job. That’s an old stigma to believe that women belong only to the office.

“I remember when I first stepped on to a site for the very first time and I did feel a little outside of my comfort zone, so when I say don’t be afraid I am speaking from experience.”

How does a snapshot of the industry today compare with 20 years ago?

“Well, it is encouraging in the first off to see that there are more young women taking up the trades. When the seed is sown, it will grow and it will only grow from here.”

Shaking off old stigmas is what Ramberg sees as the greatest change in the industry, and in society too. “It will actually make the industry so much more robust too, which is great to see,” she says.

A further pitch to any younger people, male or female, considering a career in construction is this. “In Ireland we are so lucky to have  the apprenticeship system that we do,” she says.

Ramberg describes how because of this system, Ireland’s tradespeople are in high demand. A trade is also something that can be taken across the world. “This in turn can benefit the country as a whole when they return with international expertise and ideas,” she adds.

Over the next two years throughout her term as President of the MPDI, Ingrid Ramberg explains how she is looking forward to seeing more young people join the industry.

“It’s on the up with all the resources there are to train young people, so seize the opportunity.”

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