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How a housing apprenticeship changed my life

Susan Thompson of First Ark explains the benefits of apprenticeships

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How a housing apprenticeship changed my life, by Susan Thompson of @firstark for National Apprenticeship Week #ukhousing #NAW2019 #NCW2019

“I’d advise other women who are also keen to learn a trade to consider exploring options through your local housing association. Please don’t think it’s ‘a man’s job’” Susan Thompson of @FirstArk writes for us for National Apprenticeship Week

I joined the First Ark apprenticeship scheme in September 2015, in the facilities management team. The division employs very few women – in fact I’m the only one.

Unfortunately, women only make up 11% of the construction workforce in the UK, so I’m proud to challenge stereotypes.

For me, this has never been an issue because I’m just as strong as most of the men I work with and I am committed to a career in joinery and plastering at First Ark.

I rent a home from Knowsley Housing Trust and first heard about the apprenticeship programme after the trust suggested I get involved in the ‘Knowsley Works’ initiative, delivered in conjunction with Knowsley Community College and Knowsley Metropolitan Borough Council.

“I’d advise other women who are also keen to learn a trade to consider exploring options through their local housing associations. Please don’t be put off thinking it’s ‘a man’s job’”

This scheme helps customers into work, training and apprenticeships.

It jumped out at me because I’ve always wanted to work in the construction industry. My dad, brothers and uncles are all in the building trade and I’m a very practical person who likes to see a job finished, so it’s the perfect career path for me.


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How a housing association is bucking the trend on apprenticeshipsHow a housing association is bucking the trend on apprenticeships
National Apprenticeship Week 2019: the housing sector celebrates its apprenticesNational Apprenticeship Week 2019: the housing sector celebrates its apprentices
Why it is crucial to promote housing careersWhy it is crucial to promote housing careers

After enrolling on a plastering course, I progressed from a level two multi-skilled apprenticeship to a level three joinery apprenticeship and qualified in 2010.

I then gave birth to my daughter and took a year off on maternity leave. After coming back to the world of work, I found it difficult to find a job without practical experience and had the added challenge of wanting to work around nursery opening hours.

“I couldn’t believe I’d have the chance to study for practical qualifications while learning how to plaster, complete day-to-day repairs, refurbish empty properties and maintain the group’s homes”

After discovering the First Ark apprenticeship scheme in 2015, I was bowled over when I realised it offered the perfect opportunity to improve my skills, earn a fair wage and work flexible hours. I couldn’t believe I’d have the chance to study for practical qualifications while learning how to plaster, complete day-to-day repairs, refurbish empty properties and maintain the group’s homes.

Throughout, I’ve been mentored by experienced tradesmen who are experts in their fields. They’ve boosted my confidence, so I can tackle any job on-site. It’s great knowing the team have your back and are willing to teach you new skills.

The scheme offers an ambitious career path and since I joined, I’ve been promoted to the role of multi-skilled apprentice and I’ve now progressed to the position of handy person accessor.

I’d advise other women who are also keen to learn a trade to consider exploring options through their local housing associations. Please don’t be put off thinking it’s ‘a man’s job’. Excelling in the role is about your skill set. It’s time to think about building work differently.

Susan Thompson, handy person accessor, First Ark Group

National Careers Week and National Apprenticeship Week

National Careers Week and National Apprenticeship Week

National Careers Week

National Careers Week, which is run by a not-for-profit organisation of the same name, aims to promote the importance of good careers education in schools and colleges.

It is founded and backed by a number of volunteers from education and business and is supported by the Royal Bank of Scotland.

This year National Careers Week runs from 4 to 9 March.

National Apprenticeship Week

National Apprenticeship Week is co-ordinated by the National Apprenticeship Service, part of the Education and Skills Funding Agency and is “designed to celebrate apprenticeships and the positive impact they have on individuals, businesses and the wider economy”. National Apprenticeship Week also runs from 4 to 9 March this year.

Read more:

National Apprenticeship Week 2019: the housing sector celebrates its apprentices Pictures and tweets from across the UK as #ukhousing shares its apprentice success stories

Why it is crucial to promote housing careers National Careers Week offers a great platform to articulate the compelling reasons to work in housing and attract the brightest people to the sector, writes Adam Clark

Choose housing to have a real impact and a career you can be proud of As National Careers Week continues, Isabel Connolly outlines the benefits of working in the housing sector

How a housing apprenticeship changed my life Susan Thompson of First Ark explains the benefits of apprenticeships

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