From education to employment

More women needed in the trades industry

Female trades influencers reveal litany of gender bias, online abuse, and comments about their appearance, They’re supporting Checkatrade’s new Get In scheme to drive more girls and young people into trade careers

Two female trades influencers have shared their experiences of working in the domestic trades after a leading report revealed that 85% of the industry is occupied by men.

DIY influencer Jasmine Gurney (@_ohabode) and plumbing, heating & gas engineer Rachel Griffiths (@plumbingbyrach) have both stacked up hundreds of thousands of followers on TikTok and Instagram through sharing their experiences of working in domestic trades.

However, after the 2023 UK Trade Skills Index revealed that 9 out of 10 trades apprenticeship are occupied by young men, and males make up the majority of the workforce, the young women have shared their experiences of being women in trades – and how gender bias, perceptions of ‘handymen’ and a lack of awareness in schools could be alienating women from successful trades careers.

Powered by tradesperson directory and undertaken by leading independent macro-economic research firm Capital Economics, the report revealed the construction and trades industry will be missing almost one million workers needed to keep up with construction demand by the end of the next decade, highlighting an alarming need to drive more young people into the industry.

To help meet construction output, Checkatrade’s new initiative Get In aims to drive more girls and young people into trade careers to help future proof the UK’s construction and trades industry.

‘Men say they can do a better job than me, but I make £40k a year through my trade career’ – Jasmine Gurney

29-year-old mum Jasmine Gurney is a self-taught handywoman and DIY influencer who has stacked up over 140K followers through sharing insights into her career in domestic trades.

Commenting on the prevalence of men in trades careers, Jasmine highlighted how the perception of trade roles needs to change if the industry is to attract more women.

“The construction and trade industry is undeniably male-dominant. Job adverts for ‘handymen’, ‘workmen’ and ‘tradesmen’ also alienates women in the industry and makes it a less appealing industry to join.”

Jasmine, who has a 17-month-old son and earns over £40k a year from her trades and marketing role, says the perception of female tradies has its part to play in preventing women from joining the industry.

“I get quite a lot of abuse online, with men saying they could do a better job, or I’m doing something ‘wrong’ and basically try and make out I don’t know what I’m talking about. They often make comments about my appearance too. It’s quite sad really.”

“When working outside client’s homes, I’ve been belittled, with men saying, “trying a little DIY are you?’ and being shocked when I reply saying it’s actually my job and I explain the complex project I’m working on.”

“People have assumed I’m helping my husband or think what I’m working on is going to look botched and are then shocked when they see actually it’s pretty damn good!”

Speaking to Checkatrade’s Get In programme, which strives to encourage more young people to consider a construction and trades career, Jasmine highlighted how engaging girls in construction and trades activities from a young age could help to inspire a future generation.

“My first experience of construction and trades was when I was just a little girl. My granddad is quite frugal so often did big home improvement jobs himself. He later taught me how to wire a plug, put up shelves and wallpaper a room. Ever since, I’ve always been interested in learning how things are made and fixed.”

The 2023 UK Trade Skills Index revealed that the construction industry needs 244,000 additional apprentices by 2032 if the UK is to keep up with construction demand. Encouraging more girls and young women into trades careers could help plug the skills gap – something that Jasmine hopes to encourage through inspiring her 140k followers on social media.

“My goal is to normalise women using power tools and eradicate the gender bias and assumption that only men are allowed to build things.

“Through teaching DIY, I hope to inspire people to try projects for themselves and pass these skills onto their children, which in turn hopefully will inspire a new generation of women wanting to get into the trades.”

“If you’re good at something and enjoy it, who cares if it’s traditionally a ‘man’s job’.”

“We cannot strive for equality or prove how capable we are if we don’t try and push these boundaries.”

“If I were to go back in time, I’d have done further training to learn more about what I love. Instead, I taught myself everything I know, and I hope more women are inspired to challenge these gender stereotypes in the future and go down a more traditional route to gaining these skills.”

‘90% of the customers I see will comment on me being a woman, but I love my plumbing job’ – Rachel Griffiths

Despite being encouraged to explore other career paths at school, Rachel Griffiths has enjoyed a 10-year career in heating and plumbing after completing an apprenticeship with a small business in Flintshire.

Speaking to the Get In programme, the 25-year-old explains she often faces curiosity around her career choice.

“No one ever expects me to say that I’m a plumber. I would say around 90% of customers I visit will mention something about me being a woman and ask me why I do it.

“My appearance doesn’t fit the ideal stereotype of what a plumber should be and so people automatically assume that I’m not capable, but I know I’m more than capable, so I don’t let it affect me. Customers are always inquisitive but generally their reaction to me is positive.”

Commenting on the lack of women in the industry, Rachel highlights how, from her own experiences, more emphasis should be put on trades as a possible career choice.

“I think schools and colleges firstly need to show it as an option to women and young girls. In school, going back to do A-Levels and then go to university was the only option that was encouraged [for me]. Going into construction wasn’t even discussed by teachers. Even when I went to my college induction for the plumbing course, I was asked if I wanted to look at other course options instead.

“Women are more than capable of working in construction. I have never come across anything that I wasn’t able to do because I’m a woman.”

Despite facing curiosity from customers, Rachel is happy with her career choice.

“I love getting up every morning, jumping in my van and going to a different place to do a different job than the day before. No two days are the same and it never gets boring.

“The knowledge and skills you gain by working in the construction industry is something you’ll never lose and will help you through every part of your life.”

Checkatrade’s Get In programme is actively looking for CVs from young people aged 16-25 who want to explore a career in trades. Find out how learning a trade can build your future and submit your CV on their website.

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