Education and qualifications:
Diploma in teaching in the life long learning sector
Level 3 NVQ in plumbing and heating
Head of Plumbing
University Academy Holbeach (sponsored by the University of Lincoln)
What inspired you to become an engineer or pointed you towards an engineering career?
As a child I was always interested in how things were made and worked. In Year 9 at high school I won a competition for designing an electric board game sponsored by the electronics company Farnell (known as Farnell element14 in the UK). The prize was a day at their factory and from there on in I was hooked on engineering. Unfortunately, back in the 90s it was not the done thing for women to enter into a so called ‘man’s world’, narrowing the choice of courses open to me to achieve the career path I wanted to take as a plumber.
After attending art college and satisfying the education system, I was able to do what I wanted and that was plumbing. So I queued up at 5am to get on a plumbing course at my local college. It was the time that everyone wanted to become a plumber, due to the media hype over potential wages that could be earned. From there I studied NVQ levels 1-3 in Plumbing and Heating, gaining an apprenticeship to enable me to develop my skills and knowledge further. After completing my studies, I started my own business and was able to give those skills and knowledge back, by taking on an apprentice of my own, who was also female.
From being in the industry I found that there is a demand for female engineers in every discipline, from plumbing to electrics and motor vehicles. I found that some of my customers felt more comfortable with a woman plumber in their home, too.
After several years in the trade I was head-hunted by the local college to teach a group of girls some basic plumbing skills and since then I have not left teaching. The fulfilment of seeing young ladies and gentlemen achieve something they never thought they could is amazing. I also feel that I am able to give people the opportunities that I was never able to have due, to how society was at the time.
Please describe your role or position within your workplace.
I am the head of the Plumbing department in a sixth form college, teaching different levels of plumbing to full-time students and apprentices. The Academy also offers the younger members of the school an engineering course that incorporates a plumbing, electrical or motor vehicle unit that is a fantastic stepping stone for both males and females to experience the trades available in further education.
Can you describe a typical working day?
Depending on the group, classes can run until 4.30pm. In a day I could be lecturing theory, running practical skills workshops, assessing and verifying students’ work. During the week I will also visit the plumbing apprentices on-site to support them in gaining evidence to complete their on-site portfolios.
Are there any particular challenges or unusual aspects to your role?
My biggest challenge is usually showing the male students that I am capable of passing on my skills and knowledge to them. Once I’ve shown them I can actually bend pipe and solder, then I have earned their respect.
What do you find most enjoyable about your job?
I’ve been able to help learners achieve new skills and knowledge to achieve their goals. Passing on my skills and knowledge and seeing my students succeed into their chosen career, is rewarding too.
Is there a great professional achievement or high profile accomplishment that you would like to tell us about?
Gaining Master Plumber status for the CIPHE and having questions published in the Heating Installers and Plumbers (HIP), the magazine for plumbing and heating students. I also have recently joined the Development team for the design and development of the Building Services Engineering (BSE) Plumbing T Level. I have found this a very interesting and rewarding challenge.
What contributed to your decision to become professionally registered?
It's imperative to be registered by professional organisations as this shows your commitment, dedication and enthusiasm for the organisations in your sector.
In what ways has registration benefitted your career?
I have also gained CIPHE Centre status for the academy where I teach, which was a wonderful way to reward my department for all the hard work over the past years.
How does your employer benefit from your professional registration?
Professional Engineering Institutions (PEIs) may have regional networking and professional development events that you can attend, which can be useful for making new contacts and learning more about what’s happening in the sector. Attending the organisations’ conferences also offer excellent networking and research opportunities. If you wish to raise your profile you can volunteer to join committees and help organise events.
Is there any advice you would pass on to someone considering professional registration?
Most institutions have an assessment process that applicants must pass before they are granted membership. Joining the institution could also give you the opportunity to add the appropriate letters to your CV and business card, rewarding all your hard work demonstrating that you have the requisite experience, qualifications and skills. Membership shows that you have reached a certain level of expertise in your profession, and adds to your credibility. It also shows that you are serious about your career and professional development.
Where do you see yourself in your career in five years’ time or what are your future ambitions?
My future ambition is to write further literature to help learners achieve their goals. I would also like to support awarding bodies in developing courses to incorporate new technologies that are used in the plumbing trade, supporting new and upcoming plumbers.
Outside work, is there any activity you enjoy doing in your spare time that relates to engineering? For example, do you participate in mentoring, volunteering or membership of other engineering groups?
I am currently part of Women Leading in Education and the coaching pledge mentor scheme, mentoring women in the same position as myself or those aspiring to higher achievements. It's good to share experiences and ideas with other women as it’s nice to be reassured that what you are doing will be effective.