36 HPM 0813

HPM August 2013

WWW.HPMMAG.COM Got a story? Ring us on 01732 748041 or e-mail twood@unity-media.com TRAINING/TECHNICAL Striving to break down gender barriers JTL chief executive, Denis Hird, discusses redressing the gender balance in craft apprenticeships... Women in the Workplace, a report published by the Business, Innovation and Skills Select Committee in June, highlighted the lack of women currently employed in industry. The report included figures verified by the National Apprenticeship Service (NAS) that showed overall apprentice numbers favoured women by 276,200 to 244,400, but there is a huge gender imbalance in certain sectors. This disparity is palpable in the construction sector, where just two per cent of apprentices were female in 2011/12. In other disciplines, such as engineering, the situation is only slightly better, with women making up three per cent of operatives. But why is there such a gender imbalance between men and women in these industries, and what can we do to address it? Before I answer these questions, I should make the point that I’m not advocating redressing the gender balance for the sake of it. We need to encourage women into this sector to ensure that we continue to attract the best and brightest candidates to work in our industry, so that it continues to grow and prosper. At present, we’re only fishing in 50% of the talent pool - that’s simply not right. LACK OF OPPORTUNITIES We have female plumbing and electrical apprentices training at JTL who are just as capable of carrying out work on site as men. So why is there such a gender imbalance? It’s not through a lack of opportunities, as there is an increasingly strong business case for taking on female apprentices. Employers are aware of the benefits a diverse workforce can bring, both in the domestic and commercial sectors, where female employees can provide a strong USP for maintenance and repair contracts. One factor which I think discourages women pursuing careers in the plumbing industry is the lack of role models. Young girls don’t regularly see or hear about female plumbers and so don’t connect with the industry. There is no one for them to look up to or emulate. And while they can obviously turn to their supervisors and co-workers for support and inspiration, a male dominated industry such as plumbing can be quite intimidating for a teenage female apprentice. We’ve recently launched a programme to encourage more women into apprenticeships in the plumbing sector, as well as the other disciplines that JTL delivers training for, by appointing former and current apprentices to go into schools and discuss how and why they went into the trade. One of our plumbing ambassadors has said that she didn’t have a female role model when she entered the sector, and is taking part in this campaign to show that it is possible to be a female apprentice and have a great career. However, we will struggle to attract the highest levels of talent into apprenticeships in this sector unless apprenticeships are promoted to young people as a real and valid educational option. Sadly, when it comes to advising pupils about the next stage of their education a large number of schools still place too much emphasis on university. I can understand why, after all, many schools are judged on their ability to get their pupils into their first choice university. Furthermore, a large number of head teachers make a point of highlighting the number of pupils that they have managed to get into their first choice university as a USP when trying to encourage parents to send their children to their schools. However, this approach does not benefit everybody and is detrimental to industries that are in need of high quality young people to act as the foundation for the sector’s future. The solution to this is for the government to put apprenticeships on a par with university, and to make the benchmark by which a school’s success is judged the number of pupils that enter tertiary education - i.e. apprenticeships or university - or employment. This would remove the reverence with which degrees are viewed by some parents and would go a long way towards encouraging schools to make their pupils aware of the opportunities available to young people at the ages of 16 or 18. Our industry needs capable young people. Gender shouldn’t be an issue, potential should. Twenty years ago women were a rare fixture at the boardroom table, but today they occupy key positions in prestigious companies. It’s in the interest of our sector and its future success to show women that they can succeed as plumbers, so that in 20 years’ time we are not in a situation where people with the potential to be captains of industry aren’t dismissing career options before even considering them. Schools have a key role to play, and until they start providing balanced career advice, we won't be able to reverse the trend which has seen so few women come into apprenticeships in our industry. * JTL has launched a new website - www.JTLTraining.com - designed to make it easier for employers, potential apprentices and their parents to keep up-to-date on the training opportunities in plumbing, heating and ventilation. The site also contains details of its other professional development programmes, aimed at those already in the industry, but looking to take their business offering or individual career further. 36 AUGUST 2013 HEATING & PLUMBING MONTHLY enquiry number 127 JTL wants more women, such as plumbing apprentice, Kimberley Noble, to enter the industry


HPM August 2013
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