Teenage apprentice plumber Emily Parnill says the number of girls learning a trade has increased even during her time at Derby College.
Emily says her dad is a former plumber and he's "over the moon" she's following in his footsteps. Nineteen-year-old Emily took her Level 2 Plumbing at Derby College when she decided an office administration apprenticeship – "I didn't like it at all" – was not for her.
Looking online, she spotted an apprenticeship with Derby-based social properties maintenance contractor Metworks. She decided to apply. Now Emily says "work is really good" and she is being assessed by the college on her Level 2 practical work as part of her apprenticeship.
Emily says the number of girls going into trades is "getting better." She says she hasn't been treated any differently to her male counterparts in the workplace – although some people "look at me dead funny" when she goes to fix their toilets. And being just 5ft tall means she is well placed for "the fiddly bits" and small spaces – but less keen on reaching the higher fittings.
Derby-based Metworks was formed in February 2016 as the in-house maintenance supplier to Metropolitan, one of the UK's leading providers of affordable housing and care and support services. The company has 60 in its frontline team, plus 18 management and back office support staff.
Managing director of Metworks Gary Collins said the business had a number of key social objectives which included "adding value to local communities." Emily is one half of the company's inaugural intake of two apprentices, along with apprentice joiner Sean Bell.
Gary said: "It's traditionally a male dominated environment and Emily is a bit of a trailblazer for us in that she wants to be a plumber and wants to be a trades person. I think it sets a great example to other youngsters. This is our first intake of apprentices and it's quite an important thing for us. They are doing really well. I think there is good liaison with my office and college, to provide proper validation of how they are getting on. I think it is important our college provider is local."
Gary said the business aimed to continue providing employment and training opportunities. It planned to help inform young people on potential opportunities by getting trade people to talk to them at school and college sites.
He said: "When you are young you really don't know what you want to do, so I think there are ways we can support people by giving them the information they might need. We'd like to think there are really good communication channels between us and the college."
Operations Director Ian Davies has personal experience in building a successful career from an apprenticeship – he started out 31 years ago in housing maintenance as an apprentice himself.
He said: "Over the last 12 to 15 years I have helped develop perhaps 40 people into a more senior position. Of those I'm proud to say the two most successful have come from a trades background and gone into senior management and both of them are female. "It's important to get young women into the workplace and match them to the right roles. In Emily we've got a 'piece of gold', who really wants to learn and develop her skills.
"There is every opportunity, if we nurture and capture what we can in these young people, and the people who follow from Derby College, that they can develop further with Metworks and go on to great things."
There are getting to be more girls in trades like plumbing. In my first year in college I was the only girl in the whole group but in my second year there were a few more. It's getting better.
Work's really good. It's different every day. Some days it's doing dead easy jobs like changing taps and fixing toilets and other days you get all day jobs like fixing baths and stuff. I want to do my gas course and get my qualifications and maybe get my own business in the end. My dad's over the moon with me doing this.