Welling apprentice electrician aims to break gender divide
PUBLISHED: 12:17 25 July 2013 | UPDATED: 12:17 25 July 2013
Building sites can be a constant thorn in the side of any woman unfortunate enough to be heckled from scaffolding - but one Welling apprentice is striving to make sure that stays a thing of the past.
They are stereotypically male-dominated spaces, where discarded hard hats and jeans in need of a belt are more common sights than a woman at work.
But for 20-year-old Sophie Bingham it is her daily grind.
The apprentice electrician, who lives in Westwood Lane, left the classroom behind after finishing her exams at Blackfen School for Girls and decided to put her hands to good use.
She now finds herself an ambassador for JTL, which trains apprentices in the building and engineering sectors, and a fortnight ago she was at the House of Commons to meet politicians like Labour leader Ed Miliband as part of her role encouraging women to take up a trade.
Sophie is urging women to follow her lead and challenge stereotypes, aiming to open up industries where women are few and far between.
She said: “Generally it’s not expected that women will go into manual trades.
“Sites can be very male-dominated and quite daunting, although I haven’t experienced any sexism.
“There are three women working in my current company and I know they’re committed to getting more females into the workplace.”
Sophie works for Haydon M and E and is working in Stratford’s East Village and thinks that anyone can be an apprentice if they put their mind to it.
She admits she loved maths and physics at school, and when she started fiddling with plugs in physics classes she found that she was naturally good at connecting wires.
Sophie jumped at the chance to become an apprentice ambassador and hopes more women will follow her lead.
“This is a great scheme. We’ll be going around schools and colleges talking to youngsters, persuading them that professions like being an electrician, plumber or carpenter can be an option for anyone, no matter your gender.
“This is a serious role. We’ve even had media training to teach us how to deal with journalists.
“All the girls I’ve met have been brilliant and it’s been a great experience.
“More women should be looking to go down this route.”
Sophie thinks schools are the right place to target as pupils, especially girls, are not expected to go into trades.
Instead, she believes that youngsters are pushed towards university and academic routes whether they are right for them or not.
Sophie inherited the manual skills of her father, who has worked as an electrician, carpenter and plumber in his lifetime.
She said: “There are opportunities for women on sites and in all kinds of jobs, they just need to go and grab them. In some ways it’s harder than going to university.
“You’re working long hours while studying at the same time. And it’s not all about strength – there’s a lot of skill involved in being an electrician.
“Once I’m fully qualified, which I will be in September, then a lot of doors will open for me.”
Her employers are proud of her involvement with JTL.
Training manager Brian Brownett said: “We’re very proud that Sophie is part of this initiative.
“She’s a bright girl, with bags of enthusiasm and has a great future ahead of her.”
For more information on apprenticeships offered by JTL, visit jtltraining.com.