From education to employment

Outdated stereotypes and poor career advice cited as the main barriers to women entering the plumbing industry

Fiona Hodgson

Trade body for the plumbing industry encouraged by the small but increasing number of women apprentices who are changing the face of plumbing but more still needs to be done.

Outdated stereotypes and poor career advice are seen as the main barriers for women considering a career in the plumbing and heating industry, according to a new survey from the Scottish and Northern Ireland Plumbing Employers’ Federation (SNIPEF).

  • In a poll-of-polls of 674 people, 39% of respondents believed sexist and outdated stereotypes were the main barrier to women entering the UK plumbing industry, with 21% stating poor career advice.
  • The poll, conducted between 23-27 February, also found that 28% of people thought there was no barrier to entering the profession, with 12% citing a lack of respect for women.

Fiona Hodgson, Chief Executive of SNIPEF, said:

“It is unbelievable that in 2023 outdated and sexist stereotypes continue to be made about what women can and cannot do, often reinforced by misguided career advice that the trades are men-only professions.

“Thankfully, SNIPEF is finding a small but growing number of women who are challenging these misconceptions and entering the plumbing industry, finding it an attractive and lucrative career option.

“We need to encourage greater diversity into our industry, helping us address the current skills shortage and meet the demand from 30% of customers who have stated their preference for a women plumber.”

SNIPEF also revealed ahead of International Women’s Day (March 8), Scottish Apprenticeship Week (6-10 March) and World Plumbing Day (11 March) that 2% of its apprentices are now women, an increase of 50% since 2020. Although still small, trends indicate a growing demand from women to train as plumbing professionals.

Typical of the new cohort of young women trainee plumbing and heating professionals is 17-year-old Naomi Watson from Aberdeen, studying at Dundee and Angus College and about to enter the second year of her apprenticeship with SNIPEF member EJ Parker Technical Services.

Naomi said: “I absolutely adore my job, and I couldn’t imagine doing anything else. As a commercial plumber, I visit new places with new challenges each month. This week I am heading to Inverness to work on renewable technologies.

“I couldn’t ask for a more supportive team. I love every single one of the boys I work with and get on so well with my journeyman. He has taught me so many things to get me started.

“This job has made me incredibly confident. I feel now that there isn’t anything I can’t achieve if I put my mind to it.”

Dale Thomson, Apprentice Training Manager for SNIPEF, said:

“The talent and energy apprentices, such as Naomi, bring to their journey towards the status of a qualified plumber is remarkable.

“The young women who sign up to learn about plumbing bring a fresh element of enthusiasm, skill and dedication to the profession, and it is good for the industry that we are seeing more and more of them.”

In the Autumn, SNIPEF will unveil its new Equality, Equity, Diversity and Inclusion action plan, aimed at confronting industry misconceptions, to encourage more girls and women to consider training as a plumber and setting its ambition to have women making up 10% of all apprentices by the end of the decade.

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