CamdenNewJournal

The independent London newspaper

How apprenticeships helped women change face of construction industry

'It should not be called manual work – but hu-manual work'

17 March, 2017 — By Dan Carrier

Former Acland Burghley student Sophie Barone

THEY are changing the face of the construction industry – one job at a time.

And this week the skills of women who have graduated from a Town Hall-backed apprenticeship scheme were celebrated at the King’s Cross Construction Skills Centre in York Way.

The centre, established in 2004, has provided training for hundreds of people who have gone on to find work in various trades – and many of them are women. Employment and training officer Jo Gattenberg told the New Journal that the centre provides on-the-job training in a range of skills and it isn’t limited to school leavers.

Ms Gattenberg said: “We have people who may have been working for 25 years but do not have an official diploma, or want to brush up on their skills, as well as school leavers. Apprenticeships offer paid training, work ­experience, a qualification and a job at the end of it.”

The challenge now is to get more women to take them up, she said, with industry levels for women hovering between 5 and 10 per cent.

“It is changing slowly,” she said. “It has been seen traditionally as men’s work but there is no ­reason women should not be electricians, plumbers and carpenters.”

Sophie Barone, 22, who went to Acland Burghley school in Tufnell Park, has qualified as an electrician and works full-time for the Town Hall repairs team. She said: “I had been doing something completely different – I was into the performing arts, but I found it wasn’t really for me so I was looking into apprenticeships. “I had always been interested in construction – I would enjoy finding ways to solve problems. As a child, I had an uncle who had a Meccano set and I remember he’d build these giant bridges and I’d love looking at how he’d made them.”

She completed a four-year course and being a woman is no longer a barrier, says Sophie. She added: “When I am at work, people just do not think about the fact I am a woman. They treat me as they would treat anyone. I’d recommend this to anyone – it’s better than a desk job, it is hands-on, and is a lot of fun.”

The successful apprentices celebrate with Councillor Larraine Revah

Nicola Monks, 30, and Emma Moody, 34, are both completing a level one diploma in multi-skills, a course that introduces people to a range of disciplines and helps apprentices choose what area they would like to specialise in. They both agreed that more needed to be done to bring women into the building trades.

Emma Moody

Emma said: “I think a lot could be changed in the way such work is advertised. It is very male-centric.” Nicola added: “It should not be called manual work – but hu-manual work. I’d recommend it. It’s definitely not a man’s world.”

Town Hall equalities chief, Labour councillor Larraine Revah, said: “One of the challenges the construction industry faces is attracting women. Currently they make up only 11 per cent of the construction workforce and only 1 per cent of on-site workers. We are working to address this and are forming partnerships with training providers, developers, contractors, and other organisations to promote the vast range of jobs that are available to women within the sector.”

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