We catch up with Veronica Jennings, winner of the 2022 ECA Apprentice of the Year award.
Last year, Veronica Jennings of ECA Member firm Imtech Engineering Services was recognised as one of the country’s leading electrotechnical and engineering services apprentices, after winning the coveted 2022 ECA Apprentice of the Year Award.
Since winning her award, Veronica has seen her career go from strength to strength. We caught up with her to gain an insight into her success, and her advice for up-and-coming electrical apprentices looking to take the next step in their career.
Q. What was it like to win the Apprentice of the Year Award, and how it has changed your career?
I was very fortunate that my employer nominated me. From filling in the questionnaire to the final interview in London, I had the full support of my colleagues and managers. I can’t express how happy I am to have won for them. The ECA Apprentice of the Year Award offers unique recognition to those of us at the very beginning of our careers and I hope that it will help guide me to a really fulfilling and successful working life. I’ve since had the chance to speak to students at an ECA event, and I’ve been involved in a case study to help encourage people into electrical careers. There’s much more to look forward to as well.
Q. You recently went on an overseas trip with Zumtobel Group Lighting (one of the prizes from the award). What was that like?
The trip with Zumtobel Group to Dornbirn, Austria was incredible. My hosts were absolutely lovely and so knowledgeable. I got to see all of Thorn/Zumtobel’s latest and greatest innovations, and it made me feel excited for the future of the electrical industry. I found it so interesting to hear how powerful the impact of lighting can be on not just a building, but individuals and their wellbeing too!
Q. As a young woman in the electrical industry, what barriers have you faced and how have you overcome them?
Unfortunately, there are still those that believe construction is no place for a woman. On the other end of the scale are those who over-compensate by trying to help as much as possible, offering to carry anything they deem as too heavy “for a girl”! I can’t tell you which end of that spectrum I find worse!
I think it can be easy to focus on the negatives and there were certainly times that were hard during my apprenticeship – from fitting in to dealing with the shortcomings of others’ views. That said, the good far outweighs the bad and the rewards are well worth it.
As the only female on most sites, with no other women to look up to or to guide me, I certainly found that ‘imposter syndrome’ was a big personal barrier for me. Having spoken to many tradeswomen, I think this is a very common feeling. Whether it’s because of the times we’ve been told we don’t belong, or the lack of representation on-site, it has made the feeling of accomplishment that bit sweeter when proving the doubters (and sometimes myself) wrong!
Q. What do you think can be done to better promote trade apprenticeships to school leavers?
I think, in schools, apprenticeships are still often seen as a route for those who aren’t quite as ‘book smart’ as others, but the idea of going to university is not the best option for everyone.
I think it’s more important than ever to have the right role models from our industry making an effort to connect and speak with those who aren’t sure what they want to do after school.
I remember going to fairs with hundreds of universities being advertised, and sitting with a career counsellor to discuss my future. At no point did I see apprenticeships being put forward as an option.
University is often seen as the ‘career’ route, which I disagree with, considering that an apprenticeship not only gives you the knowledge but also the hands-on experience for a rewarding and lucrative career.
Q. What advice would you give to other young women who are interested in pursuing a career in the electrical industry?
Just try it! It does take a bit of confidence to make the leap into the construction field and I know it can be incredibly difficult to then get an apprenticeship. But if you stick it out and find your place, you’ll not regret it. It’s an amazing, often fun career that allows you to earn as you train. For me, it was a no-brainer!