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Women in the trades: the industry’s skill gap for the future?

June 8, 2021 featured image

How can we address the industry’s skill gap for the future?

On 13th April, Mark Krull, Director of Logic4training, joined three fellow speakers at a webinar hosted by Resideo, a company that designs and sells smart technology for the home. The event was chaired Jim McClelland from SustMeme, who began by setting the discussion in context.

Of the 2.7 million people currently working in the construction industry only 13% are women, that’s compared to a figure of 71% in education, for example.  Construction is facing a serious skills gap at the moment and clearly needs to embrace diversity and welcome female workers to the sector.

become a plumber

The discussion picked up the theme of this year’s International Women’s Day: #ChooseToChallenge and two of the panel, Sarah Hobbs, from Resideo, Becky Bates, who runs her own plumbing business, BB Plumbing, described how they’d both had to find their own way into the industry and that it had been a struggle.

Becky described how she’d had to deal with sexism and in the early days, felt the need to constantly prove herself to convince her colleagues and customers that she was as good a plumber as her male counterparts.

Things are getting better

Both Becky and Sarah felt things were slowly improving, there’s been a 366% rise in the number of women taking apprenticeships in the trades over the last five years, but the panel, which also featured Phil Mason from Trustmark, agreed that the construction industry needs to do much more to encourage women to the sector.

The panellists highlighted the role that schools could play in presenting the trades as a viable career option for girls as well as boys. Suggesting that there could be ambassador roles for women already working in the sector. Both Becky and Sarah said they’d be more than happy to visit schools and speak to young women about the opportunities that construction can offer them.

“It’s not glamorous,” said Sarah, who started out behind the trade counter at her local builders’ merchants and is now working as Business Development Manager at Resideo, “but there are great opportunities to be had. I love my job”

Changing gender stereotypes

Both women agreed there’s no longer a place for old fashioned views of gender and jobs, and that training centres and colleges can really play a part in promoting careers for women.

Mark spoke about his experience and said that although it was unusual to see very young women training at Logic4training’s centres, there had been an increase in the number of older women looking for a career change.

He talked about Gayle Budd, the founder of Logic4training, who, twenty years ago played a pivotal role in setting up the company, alongside her husband Kevin. Gayle continued to be an integral part of the business until her recent retirement, but still remains involved with the business.

A brighter future for women in the trades

Looking to the future, Mark suggested that bringing in part-time training, that might better suit women, was an option and he certainly saw the potential for women to work in renewables.

Phil picked this up and said that if we really were going to be able to retrofit the 24million homes across the UK that need updating, the sector was going to have to embrace new technologies and practices. He felt that women could bring a wide range of inter-personal skills as well as practical abilities to help plug the skills-gap.

He spoke about the importance of government backing in improving standards. How adverts for job vacancies, for example, should be worded more appropriately so as not to discriminate against women. He also called for improvements to grievance procedures to tackle inappropriate behavior in the workplace.

The discussion ended on a positive note with Becky describing what she likes most about her job:

‘I’m not just a plumber, I’m a business woman. You have to look at the whole picture, a plumber’s not just a skilled engineer, there’s lots more to the job. Every day is a school day for me. I’m always learning. It’s exciting!”

To find out about the range of courses Logic4training can offer women, looking for an exciting and rewarding career in building services, please get in touch.

To view the webinar, yourself, please click here.

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