WE recently launched a campaign to get 100 young people into apprenticeships within 100 days. Today we profile one apprentice who is making waves in the male-dominated world of plumbing.
PLUMBING is traditionally a job for the boys, but one Thurstonland woman is proving she’s got what it takes to succeed in a man’s world.
Gemma Smith, 28, has just completed her first year’s apprenticeship in plumbing at Kirklees College – and finished top of the class.
The only female among dozens of plumbing and electrical students, Gemma, of Moor Top Avenue, beat all the lads to win the Plumber of the Month title for the past two months.
“I’ve always wanted to be a plumber and I really love it,’’ said Gemma. “I was quite shocked and very pleased to win Plumber of the Month.”
She added: “There’s 15 on my course and I get on brilliantly with them. They treat me like one of the lads.
“They do give me a bit of stick, but I give as much back and we have a good laugh.”
Rob Utley, plumbing curriculum team leader, said: “Gemma has already achieved distinctions in all of her course modules and her future is looking really bright.
“In one of her modules she recently achieved almost 100%.
“I’m really proud of everything Gemma’s done this year and it just shows that this qualification can really bring out the best in someone. I’m looking forward to seeing what she can do next year.”
No stranger to hard work, Gemma had been working as a labourer for her father, John, who has been a plumber for 44 years, before joining the apprenticeship scheme last September.
Her labouring tasks included fetching and carrying tools and materials, drilling holes and even knocking down walls.
Gemma enjoys physical work and keeps fit by attending zumba classes and biking.
Her mum, Ruth, thought that as Gemma loved plumbing so much, it would be a good idea to put her through the apprenticeship scheme.
Gemma now works alongside dad John and attends day release at Kirklees College.
John’s red van now proudly displays the legend “John Smith and Daughter, Plumbing and Heating” in large letters along the side.
The duo undertake a range of general plumbing work, with much of their time being spent on adaptations for disabled people.
This may involve installing wheelchair accessible wet rooms, wet and dry toilets and other specialised equipment.
John thinks that Gemma’s previous background as a carer is also an asset in dealing with clients. Some of them are vulnerable adults.
He said: “Gemma is very conscientious and picks things up very quickly. She has taken to it really well.
“She copes well with the physical side of the job. Being a female could even be an advantage in dealing with some of our clients.
“The signwriting on the van has certainly created a lot of interest. Most people say that they’ve never seen that before.”
John, 59, added that Gemma has two brothers, but neither was interested in plumbing. One works as a gardener and the other in a quarry.
Gemma has one more year to go in her apprenticeship. After that she intends to continue for a further year and take her NVQ level 3 exams, which include the gas safe certificate.
She said: “The apprenticeship has been great so far. I’ve loved the course and the satisfaction you get from learning and achieving good grades.
“I will work alongside my father until he retires and then I’ll take over ... but he doesn’t know it yet!”