Glasgow leads way with female apprentices

GLASGOW is taking on more female trade apprentices than anywhere in Scotland.

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First-year apprentice Megan Cowan, far left, with her mentor, Francine Chisholm
First-year apprentice Megan Cowan, far left, with her mentor, Francine Chisholm

Across the country less than 1% of construction and craft trade apprentices are female.

Glasgow is beating that trend thanks to City Building, where 5% of apprentices in trades such as plumbing and electrical work are women.

One of Scotland's largest construction companies, it is actively recruiting female apprentices at schools and trades fairs.

Entering a traditionally male career might seem daunting but City Building encourages female staff to mentor each other.

For Priscilla McLeod, that mentoring role is just part of the job.

She has been working with City Building for nearly 28 years, and was one of the first female electricians with the company.

The 44-year-old, from Castlemilk, said: "I became an apprentice aged 16 after the careers advisor at school suggested it would be a good thing for me with my aptitude for maths and physics.

"I said to him, 'But that's a man's job' – though I'd be furious if anyone said that to me now.

"When I started there were no other girls and I went into a yard at Nitshill with 600 men and me. It was pretty daunting and the responses ranged from letting me get on with things, to, 'what are you doing here?'

"Now if we take on a female apprentice they come out with me until they're a bit more skilled, and that helps them fit in a little easier."

One of these apprentices was Lynsey Chambers, now City Building's training centre manager.

She goes out to schools to talk to young women about the benefits of working in construction.

City Building also encourages female staff to hold workshops for teachers to encourage them to promote careers in construction.

In 2011 the company also ran a Female Lone Parents into Construction scheme, which gave single mums the chance to complete an apprenticeship fitted around childcare.

The scheme was the first of its kind in Scotland.

Although funding was not granted to continue this last year, City Building bosses said they hope to gain funding to run the course again.

Lynsey said: "With the kind of work that we cover, it's important to have females working for us.

"For example, we worked with Women's Aid and they specifically requested a female member of staff. The black and ethnic minority community and some elderly clients also prefer a woman worker.

"We make sure young female apprentices have a good support network and they have an older female worker they can speak to."

City Building currently trains 345 apprentices, of which 16 – or 4.6% – are female.

Although this number seems low, it bucks the national trend that of less than 1% of construction apprentices being female.

And once they qualify, female apprentices are encouraged to go on to gain further qualifications through business and management opportunities.

Teenager Francine Chisholm is nearing the end of her four-year electrical apprenticeship and has hopes of a permanent job with City Building.

The 19-year-old started learning her trade in September 2009, and said she hasn't faced any difficulties being a female electrician.

Francine, from Carmyle, said: "I didn't think twice about entering a trade, because I wasn't really aware of how few women do these jobs.

"But then I was working and it was all men – I don't think I've ever worked on a site with another women – though hopefully numbers of women will keep rising.

"It's a great job and I feel I'm learning something new every day. Even though I only have a few months' training left I feel I am still learning."

Councillor Paul Carey, chairman of City Building LLP, said: "We are committed to providing a diverse range of valuable training programmes and apprenticeship initiatives which offer employees the chance to learn new – and lifelong – skills and gain qualifications in a range of trades.

"Our Construction for All initiative and award-winning Women into Construction scheme – the first of its kind in Scotland – along with our involvement in the Commonwealth Apprenticeship Initiative, allow us to recruit and retain talented female individuals, who consistently prove themselves to be valuable members of the team and who demonstrate a natural flair for their chosen trade."

catriona. stewart@evening times.co.uk

Careers and Jobs

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