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Rachel Reeves MP backs drive for more women apprentices in Leeds

  • MP for Leeds West, Rachel Reeves, is attending an apprenticeships open day at British Gas’ Leeds Academy on Friday (13 March)
  • New survey findings show parents in Leeds are more likely to advise boys to take on an apprenticeship than girls
  • British Gas is urging more girls to consider apprenticeships as a career option
  • British Gas is training 1,200 apprentices across the UK, including more than 180 engineering apprentices at its Academy in Leeds

Leeds West MP, Rachel Reeves, is meeting apprentices training at British Gas’ Academy in Leeds today (13 March).

To mark National Apprenticeship Week (3-9 March), British Gas is opening its doors to parents and young people to show what opportunities a career in engineering could offer. The local MP is meeting some of the 180 engineering apprentices currently on training at the Academy.

The visit comes as new research from British Gas has revealed that parents in Leeds are almost a third (29%) more likely to advise teenage boys to take on an apprenticeship compared to a fifth of teenage girls (20%).

In the independent national survey* polling teens and parents, further findings in Leeds showed: 

  • Just under half of parents (47%) admitted offering their children differing career advice depending on their gender.
  • When asked about careers in engineering, only 4% of parents surveyed said they would like their daughter to pursue this line of work. By contrast, 22% selected engineering as their preferred career choice for their son.
  • Only 10% of teenage girls view an apprenticeship as a viable career option. Yet more than three times as many teenage boys (31%) are keen to go straight from school into an apprenticeship scheme.
British Gas, which is currently training 1,200 apprentices across the UK, is urging more girls to consider an apprenticeship. Explaining its recruitment drive, the company said in 2014 only 4% of applicants for its competitive technical and engineering apprenticeship schemes were female.

Leeds West MP, Rachel Reeves, Shadow Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, commented: “I'm meeting British Gas apprentices in Armley today to hear about the brilliant work they do in Leeds and across the country. Apprenticeships give thousands of people the chance to learn, earn and develop a new career.

“A Labour government will increase the number of apprenticeships so by 2025 there are as many school leavers starting apprenticeships as going to university. We’ll guarantee any school leaver who gets the grades will have the right to do an apprenticeship and we’ll ensure all large firms who take on government contracts provide apprenticeships.”​ 

David Marsh, Head of Academies at British Gas, commented: “We’re pleased to welcome Rachel Reeves to visit our facility here in Leeds to meet some of our talented apprentices.“It’s clear from this research that apprenticeships are still regarded as something of a man’s world among young people. That’s behind the times! Despite the rising popularity of apprenticeships, we’re disappointed that more girls aren’t benefiting from this career option.

“Apprenticeships are a great way into an organisation. A British Gas apprenticeship allows you to earn while you learn and encourages you to develop skills for life.” 

British Gas’ survey also reveals concerns with careers advice for both teenage girls and boys:
Over half (55%) of teenage girls polled complained about receiving unhelpful advice (47% of boys shared the same complaint.)

Poor careers advice has resulted in teenage girls limiting their own career choices. More than 70% of teenage girls across the UK surveyed expressed a preference for traditionally “female” stereotyped roles within their top three career choices. Meanwhile, in Leeds, the preferred roles for teenage girls were: the beauty industry (75%), nursing (73%) and childcare (72%).

Tips for teens interested in an apprenticeship at British Gas: 
Head over to www.gov.uk/further-education-skills the official apprenticeship website to discover more about apprenticeships
Keep a close eye on www.britishgas.co.uk/apprentices for information on apprenticeship schemes 
Attend one of British Gas’ open days during National Apprenticeship Week. The events will be hosted at each of the company’s six training academies, which are located across the country. You can register your interest by visiting: www.britishgas.co.uk/apprentices 

British Gas Case Studies 

Name: Lucy Martin, British Gas apprentice at the Leeds Training Academy

Among those to have benefited from an apprenticeship is Lucy Martin, who joined the British Gas apprenticeship scheme in October 2013 after leaving the Royal Air Force.

Lucy, 27, began to explore her options and found the British Gas careers page on Facebook, where she found out about the apprenticeship scheme and how it could help her on her way to a successful career in engineering.

“I was an engineer in the RAF, so the British Gas apprenticeship in service and repair was the perfect career path. I really enjoy being hands on, so I knew that the scheme would be for me.”

It wasn’t long before Lucy made the leap and signed up to the apprenticeship and, less than two years later, she gained a Level 3 Diploma in Gas Utilisation. Lucy finds her job as a British Gas engineer incredibly rewarding and enjoys meeting different customers.

She said: “One of the best aspects of my job is helping customers who need some extra support. I remember one time I was able to help an elderly lady whose boiler was leaking. When I arrived at her home she was wrapped up in blankets, and she was over the moon when I had completed the job and fixed it for her.” 

Lucy isn’t fazed by working in a largely male-dominated role.

“Working in an industry made up of men really doesn’t bother me at all. Many customers are surprised when I show up at their front door and sometimes assume that I’m from the office and not the engineer, but generally people are very encouraging. 

“I would urge anybody interested in pursuing a career in engineering, both men and women, to do an apprenticeship. Every day is different and the job is really rewarding, and being able to earn money whilst you’re learning is great.” 

Name: Sam Longley, British Gas engineer based in Leeds 

Leeds resident, Sam Longley recently reached her twenty fifth year of service with British Gas. Completing her apprenticeship in 1992, Sam found a career for life.

“After leaving school I did a lot of bar work, but what I really wanted was to do something practical, where I could meet people and learn a skill. After spending some time looking around I discovered the British Gas apprenticeship scheme.
 
“My parents were really supportive of my decision to get into engineering. My dad was an engineer for many years and was very happy when I told him I would be going down the same route as he did.”
 
Since starting her career, Sam has seen perceptions of females in engineering change.
“I would say that I have never experienced any negativity from customers when I turn up for a job. They are usually more surprised than anything. Since I started working my patch a lot more women have joined British Gas and I’ve definitely seen attitudes change for the better.

“Many customers - especially elderly ones, like having a female engineer. We definitely bring something different to the job. People often feel more assured by a female presence in their home.”
 
During her training, Sam received expert guidance and support from her mentors.
 
“I really enjoyed taking what I learned in theory sessions and using my new knowledge when I was out shadowing a qualified engineer. It meant you instantly saw your hard work in the class room pay off.”
 
“I think young people coming out of education should consider apprenticeships. You gain so many life skills, and you get paid as you learn, which these days can be a really attractive alternative to the debt you can build up at university.”

Notes to editors

  • British Gas is currently training more than 1,200 apprentices across the UK and receives approximately 30 applications per engineering apprenticeship.
  • British Gas is regarded as a premier provider of apprentices and its academies have an Ofsted judgement of ‘Outstanding’ in this sector.
  • In 2014, British Gas invested £21m in training its engineers and apprentices
Methodology
*The survey was conducted among 1,500 parents and 2,000 teens aged 15-22. The interviews were conducted online by Redshift Research in February 2015 using an email invitation and an online survey.

For more information contact:

British Gas Press Office
British Gas
0800 107 7015
media@britishgas.co.uk

British Gas is the UK's leading energy supplier, and serves around 11 million homes in Britain –nearly half the country's homes – as well as providing energy to around half a million UK businesses. British Gas provides value for money, dedicated customer service, innovative energy solutions and the highest quality Home Services expertise in the country. Find out more at www.britishgas.co.uk.


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