Wo-manual trades boost by Sovereign and Guinness

16 July 2019 

Sovereign Housing Association is co-sponsoring an event organised by the Guinness Partnership designed to share organisational expertise on how to boost the recruitment of women into manual trades.

The two organisations will share their ambitious aim of getting 5% of female trades working in social housing maintenance, over the next three years.

From line managers, to HR representatives, to those already working in trades, participants will be encouraged to work together to highlight the reasons that bringing women into trades roles is so beneficial, and consider the ways that numbers can be boosted in the future.

Paul Roberts, Director of Social Investment and CSR at the Guinness Partnership, and Liane Sheppard, Operations Director at Sovereign, are both keen advocates of equality within their departments, recently delivering a joint session at the National Housing Maintenance Forum and continuing to share best practice.

Impressing in Parliament

Helen Colwill, a Guinness electrician who started out her career with the housing association as an apprentice, will share her experiences as a tradeswoman ambassador with delegates. She so impressed MP Eddie Hughes with her evidence to the All Party Parliamentary Group on the Built Environment about Guinness’s support for tradeswomen, and initiatives like their Kickstart programme and Try a Trade sessions, that he recognised Guinness’s work in a Parliamentary debate last week.

Attendees at the event will also hear how Liane and her team have rolled out a ‘schools toolkit’ across the Sovereign geography to encourage girls and boys to get hands on during open day events, as well as setting up a Women in Trades support network, and actively recruiting women through the apprenticeship and adult trainee programmes.

Proud of our record

Liane said: “Seeing women in trades roles is something I’m extremely passionate about and in the past three years we’ve worked hard to embed a ‘women in trades culture’ across Sovereign. I’m so proud of the fact that our trade workforce is 3% female - well over the national average of 1%. But we’re not stopping there - over the next three years we want to recruit female trades of at least 1% of our trades each year. We also want to share our knowledge and ambition with others who want to do the same.”

Paul said: “At Guinness, promoting the roles of women in the trades workforce is important to us. We’re already working with colleagues across the organisation through our Women in Maintenance initiative to support them through apprenticeships, those returning to work in the trades and for women to further their career in maintenance and construction, and our Tradeswomen Ambassadors engage with school and college students and customers to share their experiences and promote trades as a career. This event hopes to join up people from across the sector, from HR managers, Customer Services, Asset Management and Development, whatever their role, to make everyone an active advocate for women in trades.”

Kimmie Wheatland, an adult trainee carpenter at Sovereign, said: “There are times when being a woman brings something specific to the role. For example on visits where for personal or religious reasons female residents don’t want a man attending while they’re alone – I’m able to complete the job. But for me, it’s most satisfying to just be one of the team – a tradesperson who can get on with the work, getting things right first time.” 

Speakers at the event will include representatives from MD Group, the CITB, Regenda and Women in Construction. The course is anticipated to be the first in a series of sessions being rolled out over the next year. For more information, please email WIM@guinness.org.uk