June 3, 2024

Women Behind The Tools: Elise

Elise is a 25-year-old electrician who hopes to start an electrical business with her partner one day.

Interview multiple candidates

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Ask for past work examples & results

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Search for the right experience

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Vet candidates & ask for past references before hiring

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Once you hire them, give them access for all tools & resources for success

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“One bloke said, ‘Why aren’t you doing hairdressing?'"

When school was coming to an end, I had a hard time deciding which career path I wanted to follow. I was swaying toward being a nurse, because of my caring nature. But I don’t like blood, so that was out of the picture. 

My dad was a domestic spark, and I spent a lot of days on the job with him. Eventually, I decided to follow in his footsteps. 

For all the time I spent worrying and changing my mind, the decision was almost made for me. I dropped out of school early and didn’t get any GCSEs, and I was nearly told that I couldn’t go to college.

“I almost didn’t get into college.”

All the colleges in my area required a grade C minimum for GCSEs, so they were hesitant to take me on. Before I could even get into college, I had to do a Level 1 Functional Skills qualification in English and Maths. 

I just about scraped through, and soon enough I was at MidKent College in Gillingham doing my Level 1 qualification for Electrical Installation. I went to different colleges to complete my Level 2 qualification and further education.

“I’m glad I decided to become an electrician. It’s a skill I can take with me for life, and there are so many jobs that I’ll never be out of work.” 

Eventually, I got an apprenticeship, and I spent four days a week on-site and one day a week at college. On top of the theory side of things, there was a lot of practical work involved.

I loved the practical work, but there were a few negative parts. I was the only girl in the class, which felt a bit isolating. And when I went to do site work, some of the blokes made comments. A few of them said, “Why aren’t you doing hairdressing?”

Luckily, I never took the comments too personally. You’ve got to take things like that with a pinch of salt.

“Strength can be a bit of a barrier, but there’s always ways around it.”

Another barrier was strength. Nine out of ten times, you’re going to be working alongside another apprentice or electrician. My colleagues are always willing to help me move stuff, and I learned that strength doesn’t have to be a barrier for women who want to become electricians.

“Put it this way, sometimes you don’t even want to go in those portaloos.”

Three words: the toilet issue. 

That’s the big downfall of working on-site instead of in an office. If I were in an office, I would just go. But when I’m on-site, it’s quite a luxury to have a toilet close by. That even applies to bigger sites! 

Portaloos aside, I love my job. 

Most days, I’m up at 4:30 am and out of the house by 5:15 am. I always try to skip the London traffic, but sometimes I can still be stuck in a jam for an hour. Day to day, I do anything from maintenance to reactive work.

Being an electrician can take you anywhere, which is one of the reasons I love it. 

Once you qualify, you can branch into testing, maintenance, and big installation projects… the world is your oyster. You’ve got a skill for life that can even take you abroad. 

“I’ve found a lot of happiness doing my own electrics at home. I save myself (and my family) a lot of time and money. It’s very rewarding.”

It can be hard to balance work and life, but I try to exercise a lot in my spare time. I love going to the gym, and I really love rugby. I don’t do that as much as I’d like to; work is a bit too full on for a regular rugby night. To boot, an injury could impact my whole career. 

Being an electrician comes with its sacrifices (like the early mornings and the traffic) but overall I love it.

“I try to turn up each day and give it my best shot.”

When I look to the future, it seems very bright. Me and my partner (who is also a spark) have always wanted to work together and have our own company. Each morning, I think of that goal.

Want to hear from more tradeswomen? Read Jade’s Women Behind the Tools interview.

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