My name is Louisa, I am 21 and I’m currently working for a pool & spa company piping up swimming pools, spas and pool plant rooms (I must add, I absolutely love it!).
Throughout my years since leaving school I’ve been working within construction in the plumbing & heating trade, starting out as an apprentice… I always get asked why I chose to be in construction, rather than hair and beauty or your stereotypical ‘woman’s job’? The answer is I like to be different; I want to be that female in construction that is known as a good plumber & heating engineer!
All my life I’ve been that little bit different in comparison to a lot of my friends, I call it unique. So, while learning the trade at college I searched for an employer who would be willing to train me up. After weeks of searching for an employer I found one who would take me on after being let down or turned away by many company’s and tradesmen/women, I was so happy!! I worked and learnt with Tony for 10 months. I was always eager to learn more, willing to try new things and was always intrigued as to how things worked.
A few months into my apprenticeship I felt as though I wasn’t receiving the right kind of learning and the way my employer treated me wasn’t fair – not that I can’t hack banter or constructive criticism – this was more than that, I was being under paid and spoken to in an unfair manner – making me feel really uncomfortable even going to work. I was never confident enough to tell my college tutors or anyone else to make them aware of my situation. 2 months went by before I managed to pluck up the courage to confront him and leave.
I didn’t let this stop me in my quest to learn and succeed. But I was back to square one! No job and my college education on the line. A month later, after endless nights of filling in applications, I was lucky enough to come across a heating engineer – Ken, who believed in me and was willing to give me a chance, taught me and, most of all, always pushed me to believe in myself! Suddenly I was learning and gaining skills from a fantastic heating engineer who showed me the ropes in the trade, it was a blessing for me. I was up every day eager to get to work, I worked through my portfolios and college exams gaining top marks, my practical work in college was always recognised as of a high standard and used as an example to the rest of the group.
Sadly this couldn’t last, just after Christmas, as I thought I was on a roll and getting somewhere…. life gave me another hurdle. My employer’s company was soon to collapse. A number of different problems meant his 35 years of hard work sadly folded. Yep, I was back to square one yet again!
Working with a good heating engineer had given me even more of a drive to learn more, I wanted to show him I could do it and make something of myself and that I was still as keen as when I very first wanted to be a plumber/heating engineer. I had to keep pushing myself, as all he’d wanted was to see me get to where I wanted to be. The skills and knowledge I gained from him I took away and used to my advantage. So, I found another employer – Chris, who could take me through the rest of my time at college and hopefully keep me on full time after I was qualified.
With this employer I learnt even more skills, some traditional methods some modern, I loved to do pipe work and always took pride in what ever job I had to do, my time with my new employer was brill, we had a great working relationship, he encouraged me, we laughed, I learnt… and most of all, despite the fact that I was a young girl in a world of construction and had a lot to learn, through every site experience, every learning curve, he was always backing me, 110% and always told me I’d be a fantastic plumber and heating engineer. This meant the world to me, as it’s always been the little things, a confidence boost or a ‘well done’ that have meant the most to me and pushed me on.
After my time at college and time spent on the tools learning, I decided I wanted to challenge myself and to learn a different side to pipework and heating, to broaden my knowledge. So I started to learn about swimming pools and spa’s. I found a job with a company who specialise in that line of work. Since working at this company I’ve learnt the pipe work side of how pool and spa’s work. I’ve learnt what I need to know on the electrical, service and ducting side of the job – I’ve never seen this as a waste of time, I’m learning more skills every day! So to me every day is a bonus.
So I currently love my time here, great colleagues, always have a laugh with the lads on site, and I really couldn’t have wished for a better position to be in at my age. I didn’t think it was going to be easy, in fact I knew it wouldn’t be…. but it was most definitely worth it.
Working in construction being male or a female will always be a challenge. However I think there should be more females in the construction industry. I have never written or really told my story on how or what it’s like to be a woman in construction. But if there are young people reading this who want to make something of themselves in construction, then I hope it inspires you to go on and do what you want, to never give up and to always strive for more. I won’t stop until I reach all of my goals and can prove to all that doubted me that you can simply be what ever you want to be as long as you put your mind to it – with motivation and determination you can achieve anything.