Housing association increases number of women in trades

Housing association increases number of women in trades

A housing association has boosted the number of female trades in its workforce as part of a campaign designed to attract more women into practical careers.

LiveWest appointed 26 apprentices, trainees and improvers last year and seven of those were female which represents 27% of the new arrivals. It means the social housing provider now has 16 females working across its 420-storng trades workforce. That equates to 4% of its total workforce and LiveWest is aspiring to increase that to five per cent in the near future as the 39,000-home landlord celebrates National Apprenticeship Week.

LiveWest recruited a further four female trades last year with Tara Mather joining as a carpenter, Elizabeth Murray as a gas engineer, Gayle Bowden as a building labourer and Chea Taylor as a Lead Technician (plumber qualified).

The last 12 months also saw LiveWest appoint its first female apprentice electricians after Claire Humphries and Ellie King Joined the 39,000-home landlord in its latest wave of apprenticeship arrivals. The appointments follow a Women in Trades campaign launched by the social housing provider which was designed to promote the range of trades available to women across the South West.

After holding a taster day for women to try their hand at carpentry, bricklaying and painting and decorating, a number of women applied for an apprenticeship role at LiveWest. One of those is Claire Humphries, who decided to take a career change after working as a chef for the last 20 years in private yachts in Florida, the Bahamas and the Caribbean.

Due to family circumstances, Claire returned to the UK and used her cheffing skills for a charity providing palliative and respite care. Exeter-based Claire was unexpectedly made redundant at the age of 46, leaving her at a crossroads as she weighed up her options for the next step in her career.

Due to Covid, cheffing jobs were at a premium, so Claire worked for the Office of National Statistics where she helped the Government to gather data about Covid-19. The 18 months she spent outside of the catering industry gave her time to take stock and eye up a new challenge. Claire kept coming back to pursuing a practical career as she had always had a burning desire to try her hand at electrics.

During National Apprenticeship Week, Claire, 48, said: “I have been working as a chef for the last 20 years and was made redundant. I decided I was going to try something new and was driven towards a practical career after attending LiveWest’s Women in Trades Day. It just confirmed what I thought I already knew — that I wanted to work in a practical profession.

“It was always a tricky one as retraining at my age could be viewed as daunting. The other bit was whether an apprenticeship was right for someone like me. On the surface, an apprenticeship is for young people but that isn’t how it is. LiveWest made it very clear that they like to train people of all ages and your age would not be seen as a barrier. That gave me the comfort to apply for an organisation that I know are diverse and inclusive and invest in all of its people.

“So I took the plunge and applied for the role. I was absolutely delighted when I discovered I had been successful. With LiveWest paying the National Living Wage, it meant I could realistically afford to apply for an apprenticeship. I haven’t looked back since.”

“It is the best move I have ever made and I thoroughly recommend doing an apprenticeship with LiveWest. I love going to work every day and couldn’t be happier.”

Having served in the Royal Navy and carving out a successful spell in nursing, Georgia Roberts was still searching for her desired career path. After leaving school at the age of 16, Plymouth-born Georgia joined the Royal Navy as a Communications Specialist in 2008. Her role saw her maintaining the safety of ships and other vessels using radar and solar systems.

Georgia decided to leave the forces in 2012 and immediately launched a career in nursing. But despite excelling in the health sector, Georgia still had an itch to fulfil her career ambition of moving into a practical trade.

Yet it was only when housing association, LiveWest, advertised for apprentices to work across their trades’ services, that Georgia felt compelled to take the plunge. A successful interview process culminated in her being appointed as an apprentice Gas and Engineer and she is delighted to have made the move.

Georgia, 31, said: “I thought my dream had gone as I am in my 30s and couldn’t really afford to start again as an apprentice. I am someone who used to do DIY around the house when I was younger. I always like doing practical jobs and trying my hand at different things.

“Since joining LiveWest, I have loved every minute of my job. Everyone is so supportive, I have got a great mentor and there are some fantastic opportunities here. It is great to go into a customer’s home and actually make a difference by fixing something or installing something new that will help them enjoy their home even more.

“It is great to see an organisation promote trades to women and actively looking to increase the diversity in all areas. Trades have often been seen as a male job, but more and more women are breaking into this field and the stereotypes are changing. It kind of reflects the change in the way society views things and that can only be a good thing.”

Liane Sheppard, Director of Property Services for LiveWest, said: “Women are not well represented in skilled trades, and we have taken steps to address that by giving them opportunities at LiveWest. We have some great female role models already working across our trades, but we want more. We want to empower more women to pursue a trades career.

“LiveWest is committed to welcoming female colleagues to our trades and this could be the start of an exciting journey for those interested in launching or changing their careers. We are also looking to increase the diversity of our apprentices to ensure we have continue to welcome people from a diverse range of backgrounds, cultures and ages. We will be advertising for our next group of apprentices over the next few months and will ensure that we are inclusive in our recruitment.”

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