Case study - Millie, carpenter

Millie Carter

As a kid I dreamed of being an interior designer. I always had a pencil in my hand, sketching and drawing everything from cartoons to still lifes. After leaving school I went to college, taking a Diploma in Art & Design. When I’d finished college, though, I wasn’t quite sure where to go next. Should my passion drive my employment, or was it more important to find a job?

My dad worked for a housing association at the time [which is now part of Sovereign] and he got me some work experience in his office. I loved being out in the world, meeting people and shortly afterwards a position as a receptionist came up, so I went for it and got it. 

As the years went on, I dotted all over the business, working as a team secretary, in the contact centre, even as a complaints advisor. I carried on doing art at home, keeping it as a hobby. 

I was happy enough with my jobs but something definitely niggled. Then I saw the invitation for the taster day at Witney College. I went along and it was brilliant! I had a go at plumbing – soldering joints, carpentry, and brick-laying and when the day ended I wished it was longer.

I spoke to Liane the Operations Director here at Sovereign about how I was feeling, and she was a star, immediately helping me to organise two weeks’ work experience. I was part of the empty homes project team and the guys were great, teaching me plastering and how to install skirting among loads of other skills. 

After that I was hooked, though still a little hesitant inside. I wondered if I could really give up my job and start again as a carpenter in my late twenties. I spoke to my mum and dad and they were behind me – in fact, my mum loved the idea. I think sometimes other people can see more clearly what you need than you can yourself. 

Coming to the role at a later age was the right decision for me. Working in the other areas of the business first gave me a real insight into how to interact with residents. I love meeting customers face to face, and having a good chat when I’m out on a job. And I like the fact that I’m doing what I do for a social housing provider. I currently live in a Sovereign house with my mum, and soon I’m moving into a Sovereign Living shared ownership property that I’ve bought myself. It feels very right.

I’ll qualify in June this year, with an NVQ L2 in carpentry, which is amazing. I think, though, one of the best parts of this job is talking to other people about what I do. I think being older means that I’m comfortable giving my real opinion. For example, I really feel that educating younger people about the jobs that are out there in housing is important, as well as explaining how the skills they learn at school link to the real world. And I’m glad to be an ambassador for women in trade too. To all the women out there thinking about it: don’t doubt yourself. If I can do it, you can do it too!