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Bursary helps sparky women break into industry

Release Date: 30/10/2015

 Two young women are hoping to benefit from a campaign designed to boost the number of females working in the traditionally male dominated world of construction.

Shauna Wigglesworth and Cariad Thomas-Cooke are currently studying to become electricians at The Sheffield College.

They, along with a third female, Geraldine Hughes, are being supported along the way by Sheffield-based women’s group WEST (Women in Engineering Science and Technology) and the nation’s largest electrical regulatory body NICEIC.

Liz Kettle, outreach worker with WEST commented:  “Attitudes within the construction industry have changed dramatically in the last 20 years and seeing a woman out on site is not the closed shop it once might have been.

“However, the number of females actually choosing to become a plumber, builder or electrician is still very low.

“We want to highlight that fact and make choosing a career in the trades a legitimate career option and a viable one for women of all ages.”

WEST joined up with NICEIC at the start of this year with the aim of creating more opportunities in the sector for women.

Together they created a bursary for the three students which will help fund their studies throughout the course. They will provide additional support to help the trio find work placements with local firms.

Shauna, 24, is currently in the second year of her City and Guilds level 3 qualification. She said: “I was buzzing when I heard I’d got the funding. It’s given me a lot of stress relief, and will really help me with my plans to be an electrician.

“I’m the only woman in my class and the first few weeks at college were a bit weird. I get on with all the guys now though.

“My ultimate aim is to gain experience in installation work and then get into cable designing with an architect.”

The funding allowed 31-year-old Cariad to choose an alternative career path and she is now in the first year of her level 2 qualification.

“Because of my age I don’t qualify for government funding. The bursary means I can retrain and go into a different career.

"I was itching to do something that wasn’t stuck in an office and I really want to become an electrician because of the options it opens up for me.”

NICEIC currently represents around 26 000 registered firms across the UK. It set up its Jobs for the Girls campaign four years ago when it discovered that less than 1 in every 1,000 electrical contractors was female.

Emma Clancy, CEO of NICEIC commented: “Through our Jobs for the Girls campaign NICEIC has actively encouraged more women into the electrical industry.

“The industry is not a closed one. The aim of this partnership is to open up the opportunities that exist within it, to women of all ages.

“Learning a trade a means women can develop a skill which will be with them in life, allow them to work on their own or within a team, and more importantly allow them flexible working hours to work round home or family commitments.

“We look forward to following the progress of the three women and hope they go on to enjoy a successful career in the trade.”

Jason Pepper, Executive Director, Finance and Resources, The Sheffield College, added: "We are committed to training our students in the skills that employers need to improve their job and careers prospects, and to support regional economic growth.

“Our new £6.8 million facilities at our Olive Grove campus demonstrate our commitment to ensuring that women, as well as men, benefit from the exciting opportunities and rewards that careers in engineering offer.