The C.K tools Bright Sparks apprentice scheme has supported more than 22,000 electrical apprentices, both male and female, since it began in 2003. Here, we profile 23-year-old Elyse McBride.
The UK currently has the highest female employment rate in recorded history and the construction industry is thriving, with a consistent year-on-year employment increase. While these two facts should go hand-in-hand, construction is still a largely male-dominated industry, and the 11% of women in the trade account for only 1% of on-site roles. The number of female electricians, bricklayers and glaziers is so low it’s immeasurable.
Although still small, the female workforce is quickly growing, with four times more women in construction than just five years ago. The significant progress being made may see women making up a quarter of the construction workforce by 2020 and apprenticeships play a huge role in the employee recruitment process.
The C.K tools Bright Sparks apprentice scheme has supported more than 22,000 electrical apprentices, both male and female, since it began in 2003. The scheme provides colleges with free tools and bursaries for use whilst training, allowing budding electricians to get to grips with the best hand tools the electrical industry has to offer.
One advocate for more females in the construction industry is Elyse McBride, 23, who is an electrical apprentice at Fife College and one of the many females the Bright Sparks scheme has supported.
“I just kind of fell into my apprenticeship,” she said. “I was initially at university studying Sports Science, but I didn’t enjoy being away from home, so I left after my first year with no plan.
“My dad works in construction and my brother was halfway through a plumbing apprenticeship, so when the opportunity came up to do an electrical apprenticeship, I thought it was worth a shot. My family were very surprised when I started the apprenticeship and I don’t think anyone believed I’d stick it out if I’m being honest.”
“I mostly work on new builds, which are pretty clean. The job is very active too and there’s always something to test you and make you think. It’s never boring.”
She continued: “I didn’t have many expectations going in; I assumed it was all crouching in dirty crawl spaces in people’s houses, but this wasn’t the case. I mostly work on new builds, which are pretty clean. The job is very active too and there’s always something to test you and make you think. It’s never boring.”
The opportunity to earn an income and gain experience by undertaking an apprenticeship is appealing to many young people who don’t wish to attend university. The 92% employment rate for apprentices is much more appealing also, compared to the 86% of university graduates.
While the benefits of opting to complete an electrical apprenticeship are significant, many women interested in the profession are put off by the idea of sticking out like a sore thumb on site. “I’ve been lucky enough to work on many sites with the same contractors so it tends to be the same group of people who know me,” she said. “There has been the odd time where I’ve been on a new site where they don’t expect a female but overall there are no issues and everyone sees I am there to learn and deliver the job.”
While undertaking her apprenticeship, Elyse’s work performance has seen her earn praise from her employers and has even opened up doors for promotion in the near future.
“A personal highlight was when I was runner-up for a company-wide ‘Apprentice of the Year’ award. It’s a large company with lots of apprentices, so even receiving the recognition and getting to the final is a massive achievement.
“I’m currently undertaking my National Certificate in Quantity Surveying, which is the career path I’m currently going down. I’d love to be able to have as many qualifications behind me as possible so I have lots of different opportunities wherever I go in the world.”
The Bright Sparks scheme, which Fife College has been part of for three years, provides 60 colleges nationwide with bursaries and a selection of the latest tools for use while training.
“The Bright Sparks scheme has made a massive difference to me,” continues Elyse. “I realise now that university isn’t the be all and end all like I thought it was and there’s other options out there. I would recommend anyone to do an apprenticeship. I think it’s been a really good opportunity.”
Claire Griffiths from C.K tools commented: “Electrical apprenticeships are growing in popularity amongst young people and university is no longer the only obvious option to gain skills and employment. We’re happy to be able to facilitate this outlet for young people wanting to build a career in the electrical trade, promoting professionalism and quality with the tools and bursaries we provide.
“Apprentices like Elyse are the reason why this scheme is so important. During her time as a student, she’s worked hard and received recognition from her employers as well as promotion opportunities to stand out in an industry dominated by males.”
Colin Martin, Elyse’s Electrical Lecturer at Fife College, said: “Our place on the Bright Sparks scheme is what sets us apart from many other colleges; the benefits are significant and allow the students to use the best tools available while learning.
“We’re constantly seeing budget cuts, but the C.K tools bursary and tools never change, allowing us to guarantee students the same quality learning environment every year.”