Getting to know Simone, Trainee Plumber
Simone is a trainee plumber at Sovereign. She explains why this new direction was the right one for her.
"I am a person who loves to learn – I really don’t like standing still, and if something grabs me I’m not afraid to make a change. That said, deciding to become a plumber was pretty out there, even for me.
I spent seven years with the Saracens rugby team, working for their charity as a senior development manager. I promoted health and well-being through sports development. Then I passed a couple of years as a teaching assistant in a primary school, so I went from an all-male environment, to all-female – and now I’m back to predominately male!
But that is changing – and that’s one of the reasons I was really excited to come and work for Sovereign. From the outset, I have been really reassured by the men and and women who work here, that it’s not who you are, but what you can do that counts. I read up on the values and policies in place at Sovereign, which state that equality and diversity are important to it as an organisation – and as a mixed race gay woman I am so pleased to see that being lived out in reality.
My switch to plumbing was not entirely planned. In fact, I’d wanted to be a stay at home mum, but unfortunately, in November 2018, our little boy died shortly after his birth. It was a devastating time.
The time after that was difficult. But my wife Emily helped me – and supported me when I told her I’d decided I needed another change of direction, a new focus, if you like.
I’d always done DIY at home – it made me ridiculously frustrated that I would have to pay other people to come and do things that I thought I could handle, and so that’s why in the end I went for plumbing. It’s logical and it’s problem solving, things that I know I’m good at.
I applied for a few different apprenticeships at around the same time, but I really liked Sovereign’s emphasis on women in trade and that being older – and ‘unskilled’ - was not a barrier to being interviewed.
To be honest, I even enjoyed the interview. We did a practical task to dismantle and reconnect pipework under a sink – and there was a chance to speak to current apprentices. I chatted with women already on the team and that made me even more keen.
So now here I am – I’m going to get an NVQ and Diploma in Plumbing from South Gloucestershire College. At the same time I’m getting paid to gain experience – both in empty homes, working fixing up properties for new residents to move into, using carpentry, decorating, multi-skilling, and plumbing – but also problem-solving with my mentor on the response team. I know it’s not good for our residents, but I have to say I do love tracking down the source of a mystery leak!
Working for Sovereign has been an eye-opener. Although I was brought up in a council house myself, this job has reminded me once more how important having a home is – however people choose to run it or keep it or live in it, we’re all different, but we all deserve the same thing. As a result I also realise how important the job that I do is. When I’m fixing up their plumbing, I’m also contributing what I can to making someone’s life easier. It’s a good feeling to be able to do that for people."
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