CDS is marking International Women’s Day today by announcing that it hopes to increase the number of female apprentice engineers it employs over the coming months and years.
It already has two women on the engineering team, with more in sales, recruitment, service and admin – but a proactive recruitment campaign hopes the numbers will rise, both within the engineering department and elsewhere across the company.
Resourcing and retention manager Aleesha Heathcote is leading the charge in encouraging women to consider a career in fire safety.
“We obviously recruit based on skillset, but due to the nature of the work there are typically more male engineers than female. We would love to empower any women out there who are thinking about a fire alarm engineer apprenticeship to take that plunge and enrol. If you are flexible and spontaneous, like working out of an office environment, have brilliant problem-solving skills, then this may be the opportunity for you.”
The recruitment drive is backed by the company’s MD (a man, perhaps indicating the imbalance across the industry) Simon Abley – who is equally keen to challenge the status quo.
“We’re very proud that two of our engineers are brilliant women. One joined us as an apprentice and became the first female in the whole of the UK to pass the Fire Emergency and Security apprenticeship standard.”
That pioneering former apprentice, engineer Grace McDonald, strongly believes that working in the trades should be accepted as a normal career route for women – with messaging starting when girls are at primary school.
“It’s really encouraging seeing other women getting into the more male-dominated trades. However, more still needs to be done at the school level to show young girls that a trade isn’t just for blokes, and that we are more than capable of doing any job we put our mind to. Our gender doesn’t define us, so why let it because we don’t fit the stereotype for a role. It’s time to get more tradie ladies into a variety of industries and break that stereotype, because you know what? We are girls that can.”
National business development manager Olivia Verner shares Grace’s enthusiasm for encouraging more women to consider a career in fire safety.
“The fire industry is a welcoming environment, everyone is treated as equals and it has allowed me to grow as a professional and a person, I would recommend it to all women if they want to feel empowered.”
Business development manager Stacey McAlwane agrees that the male/female balance needs to be redressed.
“The fire industry is dominated by middle aged white men, so it feels good when I see women in various differing roles. It’s good to try and break the mould, although that’s easier said than done.”
National sales manager Sophie Kelly loves working in the fire industry, and welcomes progress being made to move away from its very male image.
“Working at CDS has enabled me to experience a shift within the sector which is still heavily dominated by a very traditional tribe. This is moving and changing and seeing this is so positive.
Equality within the sector is beginning and we hope this shift continues. We want to be at the forefront of the new wave.”
But despite the positivity, education in some quarters is still required to achieve equality. Beth Adamson, from the admin team at CDS’ sister company, water and energy compliance specialist GENEX understandably bristles when she and female colleagues are called ‘girls.’