Breaking down the barriers – women in the industry

Rachel Jagger-Thomas, diversity, safeguarding and inclusion advisor at JTL, celebrates talented female apprentices

When it comes to diversity, the construction industry continues to push and challenge itself to become more diverse and inclusive. Whilst we can see major advancements since the Millennium, I believe all would agree that there is still more to do. It’s a topic that’s gathered pace both in the boardroom and the building site and there is real commitment to change. With this article I aim to celebrate our talented female apprentices, as well as exploring the barriers still facing women in the industry.

A growing female workforce
A 2019 report from tradesperson insurer Direct Line for Business* reveals that there are more than twice as many women working in trade professions, including electricians, plumbers, and construction workers, in the UK than ten years ago (2009-2019). Additionally, information from the Office of National Statistics last year estimates that around 2% of electricians and electrical fitters are female, whilst 1% of women are plumbers and heating and ventilating engineers.

Championing females at JTL
Earlier this year, we celebrated our first ever female National Apprentice of the Year winner. Commenting on her achievement, Ellen Lodge, who now lectures at Dover Technical College teaching electrical apprentices, said: “I am absolutely honoured to win this award and am extremely grateful for the encouragement and support I have received from both my JTL tutors, JTL training officer and my employer. Serving my apprenticeship at Ashford Borough Council was a great kickstart to my career and was an amazing environment for me to learn my trade. I have now moved on to teach apprentices taking the same course I did. I thoroughly enjoy my job as a lecturer and hope I can continue to inspire and enable young people to learn a trade.”

Diversity supports the economy
Whilst there are still stereotypes and stigma surrounding women in construction, it’s been well documented that gender diversity brings an array of benefits to business and boosts productivity. Ultimately, increased diversity will benefit the construction industry and wider society. Diversity leads to innovation, improved performance, and economic benefits.

As the industry continues to pick up pace amid the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, and the UK’s departure from the EU, it’s time for employers to fill the much-needed roles by accessing wider talent pools.

JTL campaigns for a diverse and inclusive workforce, and apprenticeships are a brilliant way for people of all ages, genders and abilities to kickstart their careers. Continuing to encourage women to complete apprenticeships is about so much more than continuing work to bridge elements of the gender pay gap, which can be seen clearly in sectors where females and males are ‘visible through their absence’. More importantly, this is about supporting the next generation of trade professionals to carve a career for themselves in the building services engineering sector; a sector where UK skills shortages mean there are real opportunities for both school leavers and mature candidates to embark on a career in a highly skilled and well-paid job.

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