Worcester-based electrician Stephen Goodridge had worked flat out for the last two years, and realised he needed an extra pair of skilled hands to help grow the business. 

So he took on his first apprentice this year – and she happened to be female.

Amy, 37, had a good job as a manager at the Co-op.  However, she’d been at the firm since she was 18 and felt it was time for a change.

“I knew that unless I wanted to stay in the same job for the rest of my life, it was time to do something radical,” she explains.

“Instead I wanted to do something very hands-on – and knew that if I trained as an electrician, my skills would always be in demand.”

Amy initially signed up for a part time evening course in electrical installation at the Heart of Worcestershire College, and then sent a letter to 75 local businesses asking if they would take her on as an apprentice so that she could earn while she learned.

Stephen, who set up his own company (goodridgeelec.com) three years ago and has a wide range of private and public sector clients, received one of Amy’s letters.

“I’d been thinking about the best way to go about expanding my business for a long time.  I’m really fussy so I decided to take on an apprentice, so I could train that person myself,” explains Stephen.

He applied for Worcester City Council’s apprenticeship grants scheme, which awards a grant of £1,000 to small and medium sized businesses towards the cost of hiring an apprentice.

Then following a successful interview, Amy started an apprenticeship with Stephen’s business in July.  She shadows him at work with clients and attends college one day a week, training with specialist apprenticeship provider JTL Electrical.

“I expected I’d be doing the clearing up – but Stephen stands back and lets me have a go at challenging jobs like changing a fuse board,” says Amy.

“It’s no coincidence that the sectors with the highest skills shortages are traditionally male-dominated industries,” says Amanda Lloyd, economic development officer at the city Council.

“Attitudes are changing but women still only make up 14 per cent of the construction sector workforce – and only one in 1,000 electrical contractors are female. We are working with the industry and our schools to help young women see that in 2018, no career should be off limits to them.”

Amy says she hasn’t been put off by working in a male dominated environment – although she admits she thought long and hard before signing up to a course where she was the only female.

“It would be great to see more parents encouraging girls to pursue electrical careers – the salaries are very competitive once you’ve qualified,” she says.

“I can honestly say that this is one of the best decisions I’ve ever taken.”

And from the employer’s perspective, Stephen believes taking on a female electrician is proving an asset. “I think female clients who live on their own feel reassured,” he explains.  “We’re also working on a major contract for Hereford Hospital, and Amy has undertaken work in the female wards which has been incredibly useful.

“My advice to other self-employed people considering taking someone on is that unless you want to work on your own for the rest of your life, you have to take the plunge – so just do it!”