Nadja, studying a Level 2 Diploma in Electrical Installation and undertaking an apprenticeship with Tonbridge-based Gilbert & Stamper, explains her route to studying in the Construction industry: “My partner and I had often joked about how much a plumber earns, and I came to an open day at West Kent College with the intention of finding out more about trades as a whole. When I chatted to the lecturers here, I was advised to go down the Electrical Installation route, given my educational background.”
And Nadja’s was a fairly unusual educational background: Raised in the Netherlands, she later moved with her family to the United States, where she achieved her high school diploma. She then returned to The Netherlands to undertake her VWO exams (the Dutch equivalent of A-Levels).
Nadja continues: “I moved to the UK with the intention of studying midwifery after a gap year. This gap year never happened because Mike Lawrie, the College’s centre coordinator for Electrical Installation sparked serious amounts of enthusiasm immediately. I also found myself weighing up the debt from a university degree, coupled with the inherent stress and long hours associated with midwifery, which all served to cement my decision.
“I’ve loved the course, particularly the theory and science element, and the tutors have been great.”
When asked if she has encountered challenges in such a male-dominated industry, she says, “I anticipated sexism in the industry, but it hasn’t been a huge issue. If it happens in the workplace, I don’t accept it. I think that when you’re on-site, it’s about how you carry yourself – with knowledge and confidence you quickly earn the respect of fellow employees and your gender becomes irrelevant. It’s about your ability to do the job and fostering colleagues’ trust in you.”
Mike Lawrie, now her assessor at the College, is glowing in his praise of Nadja: “Where she excels is her complete focus on her practical work. She carried out the practical installation component of her Unit 204 examination without error and the Inspection and Testing component flawlessly, earning her a very well-deserved ‘Distinction’ grade.”
As for the future, Nadja says: “I’m keen to get my qualifications and continue working for Gilbert & Stamper for some time, since they are a great, long-established company. I hope to eventually specialise in renewable energies and one day run my own company.”
She is keen to dispel any fears in young women who may be considering the industry: “I’d like to emphasise to any girls out there that you don’t have to be a super-technical person to be able to learn a trade - and an electrical installation qualification opens up such a variety of areas to specialise in.”