In general changing career is hard, but a woman moving into a regulated, physically challenging and traditionally male-dominated career like plumbing is especially hard. That’s exactly what Sheryl, our apprentice at SC Plumbing has taken on, we think it makes an inspiring story and we’ve decided it’s time we told it. We talked to Sheryl ‘interview style’ to find out how it all started and how it’s been going so far.
QWhat made you want to be a plumber?
Well I didn’t ever think I wanted to be a plumber, but I knew I wanted to venture into a different career, as I had been working for the same company for 20 years, and wanted a change. I lost my father at an early age, so as a child I took his role around the house to help my mum out, I enjoyed stripping out the bathroom, replacing the bathroom suite, doing the tiling, although it took me months. I remember feeling a great sense of achievement after replacing radiators and taps for her. Despite this I never thought that I would end up doing a career that would involve that sort of work.
At first I found it hard to find a way to get started but then an opportunity presented itself. I called out a plumber to quote for a boiler replacement, a man called Shaun came out and we had a nice chat. A bit of time went by and he needed to come out again to re-quote for the job, by this time I was having difficulty finding a way into plumbing and Shaun was quick to want to help. Shaun encouraged me to get into plumbing with help and advice. Then after looking into it with Shaun we found out about the COVID grant that assists with the cost of my doing an apprenticeship. So when I was given the opportunity to try out plumbing as a career I made my mind up and decided I would give it my best, and so far I’m glad I have.
QWhat was your experience finding out about how to get started?
To get started was difficult, in 2020 I was told by the college that I would have to wait until 2023, I might be able to start 2022, I felt like I had fallen at the first hurdle. When I advised them I had a sponsor, that changed everything I was enrolled within 10 minutes, and started the following week. The full-time courses were booked long in advance but there was room to start an apprentice course where I attend college every Monday only.
QWhat is the college training like?
I am learning every day on the jobs but every Monday is spent at college. At the moment college training is hard in every aspect, learning about different taps, toilets, sinks, baths, radiators, heating systems. For example I’m learning that there are so many different ways to deal with a particular job, depending on the type of heating system that is installed. It’s a lot to take in.
I find that I struggle with lifting heavy items. I have noticed that in time things get a bit easier. I am learning that everything has a technique and once that is learned, whether you are male or female, you can achieve the end goal.
I was expecting to be treated different but I have been pleasantly surprised for the better, customers have been saying they feel more comfortable with a female in the house and so far no negative feedback. College was surprising, I am the only female and the oldest on the course, but I haven’t been treated any differently.
QHow have you found working on real jobs alongside Shaun?
My first days with Shaun where full of fun, tears and aches, I wasn’t sure if I would be able to see the first few weeks out, but with a tube or 3 of deep heat rub, I managed it. Once, we had to replace all the radiators in a house and replace the boiler. The home owner Mark was renovating his late fathers home, so it meant a lot to him. It was so nice to see a happy customer at the end of the week, that all the pain was completely worth it, and it’s things like that which made me try for another week.
Over the last 8 months I have grown in confidence through the experiences I’ve had, jobs don’t seem as intimidating as they where in the first months. Working with Shaun and being shown techniques has enabled me to grow in confidence.
QAre you happy with the plumbing-life? Glad you made the change?
I am so glad that I have made the career change, you are never too old to learn new skills, I have no regrets, which I think I might have done if I hadn’t taken up Shaun’s offer of being a sponsor. I enjoy the job, every day is different, every day is a learning day.
It’s very hard work and at this stage, the pay isn’t great at all but I’m completely focussed on the value of the learning I’m receiving and I know I’m going to reap the benefits later on.
QGot any tips for women thinking about a career in plumbing?
I have always been in the mindset that if a man can do it, so can I, there’s nothing stopping us from doing anything if we set our minds to it.
If you enjoy doing something then, then stop, think about it, make a career and earn a lifestyle. Life is too short, enjoy, learn and reap the benefits.
Much more to come
We hope you’ve enjoyed hearing from Sheryl, if it encourages one person to take up plumbing we’ll be glad we told her story so far. Sheryl will be out working on jobs with Shaun in and around the Tamworth area for years to come, we hope to update this article as the story develops.
Interested in taking up plumbing?
We’ve got an introduction to your options to embark on a career in plumbing and some of our advice. Find out more about how to get started in plumbing