More women are going into engineering and technical trades, with many seeking training at Burgess Hill’s Steve Willis Training Centres.
Last week saw the second annual Women Installers Together conference held in London, and last month saw a celebration for International Women in Engineering Day.
To highlight the growing number of women in these trades, Leah Crozier and Michelle Manley, both training at the Burgess Hill centre, shared their thoughts.
Leah, 24, from East Croydon, is just finishing the first year of her gas apprenticeship at Steve Willis, training to be a heating engineer.
She came into the gas industry to join her father’s heating business having previously been a hairdresser.
Michelle, 37, from Worthing, is also in a family business, Manley Heating Services, and is currently at the training centre one day a week taking the GGFO Gas course to qualify as a gas engineer.
Leah relishes the challenge: “I like the fact that it’s challenging, it’s not boring, there’s always something different to do, and I like the practical side of it.”
She is also enjoying being back in the classroom for her apprenticeship training: “It’s a bit like reliving school again but better. The things that I’m learning are going to help me in the long run so there’s more point to it.”
For Michelle it is also the active side of the job that is most enjoyable: “I love not being sat behind a desk! Being on the job, doing physical stuff is much better than just sitting on your bum for eight hours a day. And the money is good too.”
When asked if they had faced any obstacles along the way as women, Leah and Michelle said not really, but then both mentioned the same thing – the merchants!
Michelle commented: “It’s a bit weird when you walk into the merchants, they don’t talk to you. My local merchants are used to me now, but when you walk into any kind of merchants or warehouse, everyone just looks at you.”
Leah added: “It can be a bit intimidating if you go into a merchants, but you’ve just got to stand your ground and they don’t mess with you. I don’t let it phase me.”
Both Leah and Michelle are the only women in their classes at Steve Willis, and they mentioned the fact that girls are not encouraged in this direction at a young age.
Michelle said: “People think girls aren’t supposed to, you’re supposed to sit in an office with the central heating on!
“I don’t know why it’s assumed girls won’t do stuff like this. Maybe we should be encouraging our daughters more at home.”
Kevin Smith, curriculum leader for gas and plumbing, suggests that more needs to be done in schools, as more women can only be good for the industry: “Only a few women have come through over the last few years.
“Somewhere along the line the balance needs to change so that we as a centre and as an industry get more women like Leah, because then the industry will flourish.”
Leah had this advice for women considering their career options: “Think outside the box a little bit. So many people just choose those things without thinking about it, when you could do something else.”
Steve Willis Training Centres has over 17 years’ experience in training for gas, plumbing and electrical apprenticeships and short courses.