Outdated stereotypes and poor career advice cited as the main barriers to women entering the plumbing industry

Gemma Ireland

OUTDATED stereotypes and poor career advice are seen as the main barriers for women considering a career in the plumbing and heating industry, according to a new survey from the Scottish and Northern Ireland Plumbing Employers’ Federation (SNIPEF).

In a poll-of-polls of 674 people, 39% of respondents believed sexist and outdated stereotypes were the main barrier to women entering the UK plumbing industry, with 21% stating poor career advice. The poll, conducted between 23-27 February, also found that 28% of people thought there was no barrier to entering the profession, with12% citing a lack of respect for women.

Fiona Hodgson, Chief Executive of SNIPEF, said: “It is unbelievable that in 2023 outdated and sexist stereotypes continue to be made about what women can and cannot do, often reinforced by misguided career advice that the trades are men-only professions.

“Thankfully, SNIPEF is finding a small but growing number of women who are challenging these misconceptions and entering the plumbing industry, finding it an attractive and lucrative career option.

“We need to encourage greater diversity into our industry, helping us address the current skills shortage and meet the demand from 30% of customers who have stated their preference for a women plumber.”

SNIPEF also revealed ahead of International Women’s Day (March 8), Scottish Apprenticeship Week (6-10 March) and World Plumbing Day (11 March) that 2% of its apprentices are now women, an increase of 50% since 2020. Although still small, trends indicate a growing demand from women to train as plumbing professionals.

Typical of the new cohort of young women trainee plumbing and heating professionals is 20-year-old Gemma Ireland from Edinburgh, studying at Borders College and apprenticed to Joanna Martin, Able Girl Plumbing.

Gemma said:

“I chose plumbing as a career because I wanted to do a hands-on job. I had a spell of work experience and I found that I really enjoyed it. I am now doing something different every day – there is just so much variety.

“My employer is very supportive and I am engaged on domestic plumbing and gas work from Monday to Wednesday, with the rest of the week studying at college. It is really interesting.

“None of my family has any connection with the profession and, although I am the first female apprentice, I am not the first female plumber in the company. There is no reason a woman can’t do this job just as well, if not better, than any man.”

Dale Thomson, Apprentice Training Manager for SNIPEF, said: “The talent and energy apprentices, such as Naomi, bring to their journey towards the status of a qualified plumber is remarkable.

“The young women who sign up to learn about plumbing bring a fresh element of enthusiasm, skill and dedication to the profession, and it is good for the industry that we are seeing more and more of them.”

In the Autumn, SNIPEF will unveil its new Equality, Equity, Diversity and Inclusion action plan, aimed at confronting industry misconceptions, to encourage more girls and women to consider training as a plumber and setting its ambition to have women making up 10% of all apprentices by the end of the decade.

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