We need more tradeswomen!

06 Sep 2021

Picture from the last 'Women in Trades' event. 

Of the 2.7 million people currently employed in the construction industry only 13% are women and that includes all of the admin workers, personnel, marketing people etc. Women on the tools is probably as low as 1%.

That’s not many is it? And when you consider that there’s a serious skills shortage in the sector, it makes sense for training centres to be tapping into a ready pool of talent and doing all they can to attract more women onto construction and building services courses.

Over the last few months we’ve interviewed a number of women of different ages to find out about their experiences in training and working in the building services industry.

Although training for female school leavers seems to be on the increase, with a 366% rise in the number of women taking apprenticeships in the trades over the last five years, it seems that good old fashioned sexism has had a large part to play in discouraging women from working in what is still a male dominated environment. This has got to change.

Real life experiences

Twenty-eight year-old Jacqui Wilkie, works as Office Manager at Energy Technical Academy in Kirkintilloch near Glasgow. She is a qualified gas engineer and is currently training to be a trainer and assessor.

“Since I was a young girl I’d always been practical in the house with DIY and stuff and my Dad was an engineer, but, working in the trades wasn’t really an option when I left school. It wasn’t something girls did. The only option available to people like me was hairdressing - and I hated it”

“I ditched hairdressing as soon as I could and got a great job working for Actavo who undertake work for Scottish Power. I was involved in customer services to start with but quickly became a scheduler, working with the guys and planning workloads. I loved it and found myself becoming increasingly interested in the work the engineers were doing. I was always asking them about the jobs they’d been on and began to realise I wanted to take things further.”

“When I passed my ACS I put up a couple of photos – one showing me before, dressed in office clothes, and one after, when I was in a boiler suit. I got offered seven jobs, straight away! This made me feel a bit uncomfortable. I wanted the jobs because I was a good installer, not because I was a woman.”

Jacqui’s determination and positive attitude have served her well and she has worked hard to fit her training and work around family life. Keen to help other women find work in the sector, she and her boss, Tommy Smith, are doing all they can to make their centre inclusive.

“We welcome women to our training centre with open arms and I can guarantee they will be made to feel welcome and be given the very best training – just the same as the boys.”

LCL Awards’ own Tracy Harker who has been working in the further education sector for nearly thirty years knows better than most what it’s like for women working in what she describes as a man’s world:

“Attitudes are changing, but I still feel I have to work twice as hard to prove myself. I’ve always taken my own career development seriously and my achievements have given me the confidence I need to face-off the worst of sexism.”

“Social media is helping to build supportive networks and provides a platform for women in the sector to become role models. This will definitely help change the culture.”

Demand for tradeswomen

There is a real demand for tradeswomen, so much so that Hattie Hasan, gas engineer, entrepreneur and founder of Stopcocks, launched the Register of Tradeswomen in March this year.

Hattie, who received an MBE in the 2020 New Years’ Honours List for Services to women in the plumbing and heating industry said:

“A survey by Watersafe showed that almost a quarter of women would consider trades if they had their time again. The survey also showed that over 60% of householders would be happy to use tradeswomen and that over 30% would prefer to use them. The data we’re gathering with over 600 requests for work in people’s homes in the first 6 months shows the urgent need to attract more women into the industry.”

“There’s a grave shortage of skilled trades throughout the whole of UK. Many of the tradeswomen we are working with have waiting lists to the end of the year and currently as far ahead as next April. There have never been enough tradeswomen to meet the demand for them and we’re working to help overcome that.”

The Register is a not-for-profit CIC, with three aims:

  • to increase the profile and numbers of tradeswomen
  • to connect tradeswomen with householders who would prefer to choose a woman to work in their homes
  • to provide women survivors of abuse with training to empower them and give them access to well paid, flexible work as self-employed skilled tradeswomen.

This year’s Installer Show at the RICOH Arena in Coventry is supporting Hattie in hosting a live event for tradeswomen from 10am – 2pm on 29th September. The WIT (Women Installers Together) event is free and also offers attendees the opportunity to visit the Installer Show in the afternoon.

To register for a ticket, please click here and to find out more about the Register of Tradeswomen, please click here.

And the future

LCL Awards' Director, Mark Krull, who was a speaker at a recent webinar entitled Women in the trades: how can we address the industry’s skill gap for the future? is fully behind the drive to attract more women into the sector.

 “We shall be supporting our centres in looking at ways to encourage more women into the industry. Offering part-time or more flexible training options could be one way to make learning more achievable – something that would help all parents, regardless of their gender. At the end of the day, we want to attract more learners, so making LCL centres inclusive, helpful and welcoming is key.”