From education to employment

What skills do women need for the jobs of the future?

aimee holloran

Aimee talks to FE News about her top recommendations for attracting a diverse pool of talent into her industry

With the path to Net Zero clearly laid out by the UK government, and the heating sector in the UK accounting for almost one third of the UK’s annual carbon footprint, the sector needs to accelerate progress to shift perceptions towards low carbon heating, whilst driving up the rate of installs. Recent government announcements to support heat pump training by grants of £500 to individual installers is very welcome news in an industry growing rapidly month on month, but also provides an opportunity to reflect.

Women represent just 2% of the heating industry as a whole

Currently, women represent just 2% of the heating industry as a whole. When I was 23 years old, I beat predominantly male competition to win BBC Plumber of the Year. I was absolutely thrilled to achieve this accolade, and hoped at the time I was part of the new generation of women in the industry. I want to see more women and people from diverse backgrounds continue to enter and thrive in my profession.

Embrace Equality

The theme of this year’s International Women’s Day, ‘Embrace equity’, prompted me to reflect on how women can get into this industry. Personally, I’ve always found that sharing my experiences and the passion I’ve found in this career can help to break down some of the stereotypical assumptions that accompany the plumbing and heating sector. Whenever I speak to young people about possible career paths, such as those at my former training ground Swindon College, or those in The Gambia learning about the construction of their school, I tell them that much like any job, having interest and pride in what you do is the key to success and provides the drive to succeed. On Monday 6th March I participated in Samsung’s ‘Empowering Young Women into Tech’ event with young women exploring pathways into the technology industry, and I believe the most important thing is to highlight the vast array of different jobs available, and the range of ways to get there.

Curiosity and always asking why goes a long way in this career

Curiosity and always asking why goes a long way in this career. It is often the case that young women are put off by the thought of careers they feel unqualified to do. Many jobs, however, can be learnt along the way, and ‘on the job’, debunking the myth that qualifications are the be all and end all.

One great story is my colleague Herpreet Panesar, Pre-sales Engineer, who entered the industry in an unrelated administrative role and through asking questions, being inquisitive about how building work and how cooling and heating products work, she now leads the SmartThings and Internet of Things projects in her team, including an award winning commercial installation project. Women can do it. Anyone can. 

Core Skills

The perception of ‘core skills’ is another interesting angle that needs some thought. This goes back to stereotypical assumptions of men and women’s ‘strengths’, which is why this industry can often wrongly be seen as more suited to men than women. A few years ago, back when I was ‘on the tools’ after qualifying as we say in the trade, I was asked if I could lift a boiler, a question my male counterparts were not asked. If we are to attract a diverse group of people into the jobs of the future, we must think about how we allow everyone to participate, removing the biases and gender stereotypes which can so often hold women back. It always makes me smile when I remember the answer that I gave to this question, which was that this challenge is of course about technique, not

By Aimee Holloran, Business Development Manager, Low Carbon Heating, Samsung

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