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Apprenticeship advice for young women, from a young woman

Apprenticeship advice for young women, from a young woman

Zoe Harvey, apprenticeship advice for young women

My current job role is sales advisor working at our Dorchester branch.

I got into the builders’ merchant industry when I was 18 years old. I had just completed my AS levels at my high school and decided against staying another year. I was working a job in my local pub which I liked but I was eager to begin my forever career but didn’t know where to start or what to do. I found an apprentice role at Bradfords in Wareham in September 2017 and decided to apply as I’d only ever heard great things about apprenticeships, and I thought my personality and skillset would fit the position. I got the job the month after and completed my apprenticeship early 2019. I then got promoted to sales advisor and transferred from Wareham to our bigger and busier Dorchester branch.

A typical day at work for me consists of serving customers face-to-face on the counter, speaking with trade and retail customers over the phone, completing quotes, making orders, stock management, dealing with the set up and changing of promotions & some admin work. After nearly 6 years at Bradfords, I am now taking on more responsibilities in my current role and am being exposed to more areas of the business so I am able to make a correct choice on what next steps to make in my career. I am able to occasionally go out and visit sites with our sales development manager for the area which helps me develop my learning.

The challenges I face in my current role is the ever-changing market. Prices and building regulations fluctuate and change all the time and so it’s hard to stay on top of all of it. I’ve found that there is quite honestly something new to learn every day but that’s also something I love about the job. I used to find it a challenge being a young woman in a highly male dominated industry, but as the time goes by, I’ve realised it’s really empowering and it’s the best industry I could’ve gotten into and I feel more like an equal then I ever thought I would.

My biggest achievement in my role has been completing my apprenticeship and my fast track management course. Both of these courses were really scary at first as I didn’t know what I was getting into or whether I’d be able to finish them with confidence but with the help of my colleagues around me, I’ve always felt important and supported. To go on to achieve the Independent rising star of the year award this year was huge for me. To look back and reflect on where I started, to where I am now, makes me hugely proud and thankful to Bradfords and other people in the industry who voted for me.

I hope my next achievement will be my next role, either an assistant management role or sales development manager. I have gained so much knowledge in my 6 years working in the industry and so I feel it’s time to take the next step in my career.

My advice to someone new in the industry would be to work hard, gain as much knowledge as you can, communicate with everyone around you as everyone in this industry is so helpful and friendly. You will learn to love this industry, everybody does. There is great potential to progress and make a great career in the builders’ merchant industry so grab every opportunity with both hands and go for it.

To anyone thinking of joining the merchant industry, do it. I did, and I absolutely love it. I find it’s an industry that’s overlooked or not often thought about as a career, but there are so many avenues you can go down, so many roles to be filled. You can find your passion just like I did.

I think young people and woman may be hesitant to join our industry because of the expectation of it being an intimidating place to work, or they may feel as if it would be too male dominated. I must admit, that was a feeling I got when I applied, but when I actually joined and had worked here for a while, I realised that was not the case. There is a stigma around this industry about it being non-inclusive and male dominated but times are changing, and we are changing with the times.

I feel that now we are being educated and taking a pledge on inclusivity, more women and young people will feel more confident they are able to join the merchanting industry.

I believe more young people would join our industry on the basis they get certified training such as an apprenticeship, as I think it would make them feel more confident coming into it not knowing as much, if anything about the industry. If they are able to gain knowledge whilst being mentored and supported, it would be a better way of easing them into our industry. We need to keep talking about our experiences and encouraging others to join us so they can have a great career in the merchanting industry like us.

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