Career inspiration for girls and young women
As part of our partnership with WIC and supporting and encouraging more women to join the construction industry, we put forward Megan who is an engineer in our renewables department to feature in an article on “Career inspiration for girls and young women”.
Here is what Megan has to say about her journey into Construction
What is your current role?
Electrician Within Commercial Renewables (Electrical, renewable craftsperson)
What were your previous roles?
Electrician - Domestic
What training/education/qualifications do you have?
Various GCSE’s NVQ City and Guilds level 2&3 - Catering and Hospitality NVQ City and Guilds 2365 level 2 - Electrical Instillations NVQ City and Guilds 2365 level 3 - Electrical Instillations
What country/countries did you complete your training/qualifications in?
Why did you go into this line of work?
I wanted a change of career from working as a chef due to the unsociable hours, but I still wanted to be doing something hands on and practical. I knew the owner of Electrical Courses UK in Sawston and he suggested I come along to the centre to have a look and see what it’s all about! I had a look around and a read of what the course would entail and I decided there and then that it was what I wanted to pursue. I was 21-22 years old when I started training and I completed my level 2 and 3 in 6-7 months as it was an ‘intensive course’ Mon-Fri 9am-5pm.I continued to work within the hospitality industry whilst I got my qualifications, I then did various volunteer work with firms to gain site experience before working for a small firm and learning all of the ins and outs.
Describe your roles and responsibilities
My role at Oakray can be quite varied and that's part of what I love about it, I get frustrated working in the same place and doing the same thing every day. Some of the jobs included in my role are; LED upgrading, this is in commercial dwellings such as schools, fire stations, libraries, etc. To reduce a business’s carbon footprint, we remove old halogen/fluorescent lights and replace them for energy efficient LED fittings. MVHR (mechanical ventilation, heat recovery) These units are typically fitted into a loft space and allow the extraction of ‘foul’ air whilst delivering fresh air at a suitable room temperature by a heat exchanger. This involves only a small amount of electrical work and running ductwork along with air flow testing. Solar PV work, currently this involves going up onto roofs where possible with the appropriate access or scaffolding to clean, check the condition of all aspects of the instillation and ensure the inverters are in good working order. Soon Oakray will be looking to install Solar PV systems as well as maintaining them, which I look forward to learning how to do!
What do you enjoy about your job?
I would say what I enjoy most about my job is the team I work within; it is a really nice environment to come and work in every day as we have that family feel. I often get asked if I mind working in a male dominated environment and I can honestly say I don't mind at all, at work I am treated as an equal and I am just 'one of the guys' too! I love being hands on and doing a practical job and that my role can be varied as it keeps things interesting. It can be quite empowering doing a job that the majority of people perhaps wouldn’t think you are capable of doing, but I hope we can change that stigma and get more women into trades! Oakray as a company have shown me nothing but support and managed to keep the family feel whilst being a growing business which makes them lovely to work for. When I have really needed it, they have gone above and beyond to help me and I am forever grateful as not many companies would be the same! This makes me enjoy my job even more knowing I am well looked after. I value the fact I have many opportunities to learn new skills and gain more qualifications too! The company you work for can have a huge effect on how much you enjoy your work, so don’t be afraid to find the right fit for you!
What do you find challenging about your job?
In all honesty, there isn't much I find challenging in the sense of a difficulty in my current role with Oakray. However, when I was a domestic electrician working for a small firm, there would be the occasional task such as core drilling (drilling a 100mm hole out of brick or concrete) this would usually be to duct a fan out in a bathroom or kitchen for example. To do this, you must use a heavy-duty drill and be able to stable it, as I am quite petite it was not something I felt comfortable doing because if I were to lose control, I could end up losing a few teeth, and nobody wants that! That being said, there will always be someone to help you (generally a man is naturally built better for these kinds of things) but I can fit into all of the small spaces to run cables from one down light to another with minimal damage to a ceiling, where a lot of men may struggle. So, it really is 'swings and roundabouts' as they say, no one is able to do absolutely everything and that's okay!
What advice do you have for people going into this career?
My advice would be, please don't over think it! If you are considering a trade because you like to be hands on and are practically minded, then I can whole heartedly say, I don't think you will regret it! Don’t let the fact you are entering a male dominated industry steer you away from the opportunity to learn a great craft! It can seem a little daunting or maybe even intimidating to think about, but in all honesty, it really isn't as bad as you might think! If anything, I have been shown far more respect by colleagues in the construction industry compared to the hospitality industry! One of my first days on a building site, they were all a little taken aback to see a female on site as it's not a usual thing to see, however, they made me feel welcome and even cleaned the port-a-loo for me! Which if you do pursue a career in construction, you will realise that it is basically being treated like royalty on site haha! I really hope to see more women on site, getting a trade is hands down the best decision I have ever made!
If you are looking for some inspiration, there are so many amazing profiles on social media such as Instagram, I follow some great women in various trades and it is a really supportive community! So if you ever have any queries, we're only a search away and I can guarantee any woman in a trade will be eager to help and answer any questions you have!