Female apprentices cement place in “men’s world”

Date: 19/01/2018
Author: Phill Stotan
Company: Hopwood Hall College

Two of Rochdale Boroughwide Housing’s Carpentry and Joinery apprentices have proved that the construction industry doesn’t have to be a male dominated field. Sarah Wilkinson and Ellie Hughes both studied carpentry and joinery at Hopwood Hall College and saw the apprenticeship opportunities after speaking to the college’s apprenticeship team. The two were then snapped up by RBH to work on the maintenance and renovation of houses in the Borough of Rochdale as part of RBH’s large apprenticeship programme. Sarah Wilkinson was a mature student who retrained in carpentry at Hopwood Hall after working in a diverse range of careers: “I previously worked in an office doing sales roles, owned my own business and even trained as a chef. But I didn’t really enjoy any of that work. “I’ve ended up in carpentry as I built my own furniture at home and realised that it was something I really enjoyed. “After I trained at Hopwood Hall, my lecturers encouraged me to apply for an apprenticeship. I was reluctant at first as I thought apprenticeships were just for young people, but I’m really glad that I went for it as it has opened up so many more opportunities for me and RBH have been great to work for.” Asked for her opinions on what it was like working in an industry that is perceived by many to be ‘one for the boys’, Sarah gave an encouragingly positive assessment of her time: “Honestly, I have been treated with complete respect by everyone I have worked with and I have never felt that my gender has led to me being treated differently. This is just my experience, but despite being a minority I have never been made to feel as though I am any different from my male colleagues. “If you’re shy, I can see why you might find it difficult to jump into an environment that is often a men’s world. But the industry needs more women. “In this role I have met many people who are more comfortable with a woman working in their house or feel more comfortable dealing with a female for whatever reason, so there if definitely a market for more women to get involved.” Ellie’s apprenticeship story is a more traditional one. After studying at other colleges previously, she moved to Hopwood Hall’s Level 3 Carpentry & Joinery course and quickly became one of their stand out students. “When it came to the end of my carpentry course, I knew I wanted to do it professionally.” Explains Ellie. “I looked at apprenticeships as I know I am not the finished article yet and an apprenticeship would let me make mistakes and learn, whilst still being in a professional environment. “Since I took up the apprenticeship with RBH, my skills have definitely improved and I have learned a lot about how big organisations work. But the big difference is probably how much more confident I am now.” Ellie’s response to why more young women don’t learn a trade was one of slight irony: “I think a lot of young women don’t learn a trade because they are worried about how few females there are in trades; which then feeds the problem itself. “The only way to overcome it is to show that the stereotypes, in my experience, aren’t really true. It’s a career where you get to be creative, gain skills for life and meet some great people. That’s surely something a lot of people want?”