All week, Mears has been celebrating its apprentices to mark National Apprenticeship Week. Today is also International Women’s Day and an opportunity to focus on the massive shortage of women apprentices in Social Housing Building Maintenance and in the construction sector as a whole.
A staggering 99% of tradespeople are male. And it doesn’t look set to change any time soon with low numbers of women taking up apprenticeships in this area.
At Mears we’re working to address the issue, along with our social housing partners, through our Tradeswomen into Maintenance project which is working with women to identify the barriers to getting and retaining jobs in Repairs and Maintenance, raise awareness about the opportunities available to women in the sector, and support women already employed in trades roles.
Sarah Bull is an Apprentice Plumber working for Celtic Horizons, our estates services partnership with United Welsh.
Sarah started her career as a plumber as a result of a DIY taster session organised by Celtic Horizons.
We had been actively looking at ways to recruit more women to train in the trades and teamed up with The Construction Youth Trust and Women into Construction to provide the DIY taster session targeted at female residents.
The sessions aimed to help women in the community to gain knowledge and learn some basic trade skills whilst developing confidence and considering a career in social housing building maintenance.
Sarah says she was drawn to plumbing because she wanted a trade that she could have for life.
“I’ve always enjoyed manual work and plumbing was something I’ve always been interested in but I never thought it was possible because I had never seen a woman plumber,” she said.
“I attended college, working towards level 1 and instantly loved everything about plumbing. While completing level 2, I was lucky enough to get an apprenticeship with Celtic Horizons where I was partnered up with Emma Ford who has taught me so much in the last year about maintenance plumbing.
“In the future I would love to develop my plumbing skills, moving on to heating and then eventually to obtain a gas safety certificate to be able to work on gas appliances.”
Sarah is keen to spread the message about the opportunities available to women.
“While at Celtic Horizons, I have also had the opportunity to be a Tradeswoman Ambassador for the Tradeswomen into Maintenance project,” she said, “and have participated in a number of events and workshops in schools and other various organisations, inspiring and motivating girls and young women, proving that they too can be successful in a trade.”
Chelsea Miller is an Apprentice Electrician for Mears in Rotherham.
Last year, Chelsea was recognised as one of the top 10% of Rotherham apprentices when she was shortlisted to the finals of the prestigious Rotherham Apprentice of the Year Awards.
“As a tradeswoman at Mears, I have always had good experiences with a variety of branch colleagues and have always been welcomed by my male counterparts,” she said. “I believe the support I receive has a positive impact on my learning and development.”
Since starting as an apprentice, Chelsea has become involved with the Tradeswomen into Maintenance project in a bid to encourage more women to join her in Repairs and Maintenance trade roles.
“Being involved has widened my experiences outside of my normal working environment,” she said. “I have taken an active part in workshops to help design the toolkits we have developed to raise awareness about opportunities in repairs and maintenance with school children.”