IS Magazine Blog

Business First

Women Can Thrive in Male Dominated Industries

City and Guilds of London Institute

Image via Wikipedia

Whether you’re unemployed and struggling to find work or looking for new opportunities, many women could benefit from looking beyond traditionally “female” jobs and learning a trade.

UK unemployment levels are high, and set to get higher as we move through 2012. Many of the standard jobs for women – nurse, teacher – are being hit by public sector job cuts and no longer seem like a safe option. Where then should unemployed women – or those looking for a change of pace – look for work? Many may actually benefit from looking beyond traditionally “female” jobs and learning a trade.

It’s a man’s world

Plumber, electrician, welder – three career choices often associated with men, but more and more women are moving into these areas. Not only are they every bit as capable of getting the job done, but some people believe that they have more patience, and so making them more likely to do the work properly.

This perception of women as the better choice for skilled work shows up in other areas. Female clients sometimes feel safer knowing that a woman will be doing the work for them. Male customers feel reassured knowing that a woman and not a man will be home alone with their wives.

So how can you get ahead in these industries?

The most important thing is to get the right training. Apprenticeships are the traditional way to learn a trade; they allow you to learn while you earn, often paying a lower wage in exchange for time off to attend college, on the job training and support.

There has never been a better time to take up an apprenticeship; the current UK government is pushing their use in training young people aged 16 – 24, and offering more funding for apprenticeships. Even if you don’t qualify for the Access to Apprenticeships scheme, you can still sign up for an apprenticeship, but your employer would have to pay your training costs.

While an apprenticeship is the most common way to learn a trade – it can be much easier to understand how a plasma cutter works and how to use it properly when you’re in a real life situation – it’s not the only way. Colleges across the country offer NVQs, BTEC Diplomas and City & Guilds Qualifications in plumbing, mechanics and electrics.

Generally speaking all of these courses will combine practical skills – installing hot and cold water, inspecting electrical systems, setting up and using a welder – with assessments. Assessments are usually practical demonstrations, but may also include oral or written tests to demonstrate your learning.

If you are unsure of the best route into your chosen career try seeking advice from a job center, training provide or a dedicated service such as Next Step.

Equality and the Law

It’s important to remember that while there may not be many women currently working in these industries, you are protected by the Equality Act 2010. This means that you cannot be refused work purely on the basis that you are a woman. Indeed employers may feel it’s a bonus to employ you, as customers are requesting a female employee.

Working with your hands can be highly rewarding and with proper training you may find that you have a job for life. Don’t be nervous about standing out from the crowd – your dream job may be just around the corner.

This post was written by Crispin Jones on behalf of Westermans International who supply the traditionally male dominated industry of welding with machinery like plama cutters.