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It's a woman's world now
A year ago Emma Bromwich was thinking about heading to university and a career in interior design.
But nowadays you’ll find her getting her hands dirty as an apprentice tyre fitter.
“All my friends were shocked – I used to be quite a girly girl,” said Emma, 19, who lives and works in Chipping Norton.
“But I don’t mind getting dirty. I did art at college and that was messy.”
And although she works in a very male environment, she still makes sure her nails are painted and her make-up done.
“You have to get girly sometimes and it’s for the customers too – I like to look presentable.”
Emma’s career change happened when she had second thoughts about going to university and running up debts without a guarantee of work afterwards.
“I thought of the future and there are no jobs in interior design,” she said.
“I have always liked cars. My dad got me into it – I’m a bit of a daddy’s girl.”
So Emma went to Central Tyres in Horsefair and asked if they were taking on any apprentices. “They said ‘yes’, told me to go on the Kwik Fit website to sign up and two weeks later I was doing my induction,” she said.
She is very impressed with the training and the way apprentices are treated. “They really look after you,” she said. Apprentices get on the job training and take part in courses at regional centres, where their accommodation, travel expenses and breakfast and dinner are provided.
During her two-year apprenticeship Emma will learn about tyres, battery and charging systems, exhausts, cutting and welding, steering and suspension, wheel alignment, air conditioning and brakes.
“When I started I didn’t know a lot about cars – I have learned so much already,” said Emma, who started at Central Tyres last November.
She finds some of the work physically demanding – “I don’t have the upper body strength... but I will soon” – but she is doing so well on her courses that her apprenticeship may be fast-tracked.
And she has had no problems fitting in with what is a traditionally male trade. Her three co-workers are male. “They count me as one of the lads. They are never sexist,” said Emma.
“I have had a few customers really shocked to see a girl in the garage. It’s usually the older men; they say something like, ‘I haven’t seen a pretty young girl in a garage before’.”
And her boss, manager Gary Holton, sees it as a positive as he feels women can feel intimidated going in to a garage full of men. “To have a lady present in the building is an advantage to put their mind at ease,” he said. “She’s great and the customers like it.”
The best thing about the job?
“The customers,” said Emma, who lives at home with dad Ian, a wood machinist, mum Beth, a carer for disabled children and brother Ashley, 16, who wants to be a doctor.
“You get really nice ones. It’s just meeting new people every day and having a customer come in in a bad mood and go home happy and safer.
“The lads make it worthwhile too.”
Emma hopes in the future to work her way up to regional management. And when she does will she be hiring other women?
“I’ll make sure of it,” she said.
The Painter Decorator
You don’t have to have a Fine Art degree to be a painter and decorator... but it can’t hurt.
And while Louise Griffiths may have started out more with the intention of having her work hanging on walls than painting them, she couldn’t be happier.
“I graduated from art school back in the mid-90s, and so wasn’t really employable, having a Fine Art degree,” said Louise, 42, of Greater Leys, Oxford.
“My dad was a house builder and renovator with my uncle, so I started doing some decorating for them for a year or so.
“I had a break from decorating, where I think I felt I wanted a proper job – whatever that may be – and I ended up working in a design studio for a marketing company.
“A few years ago though I realised I was best working for myself, with the freedom and making my own money.
“I would never go back now.”
Louise, who trades as Lady Lou, said she never really considered what she does to be a man’s job.
“I grew up in an extended family of trades people – my dad and uncles builders, grandad was a carpenter and had a double glazing company and my mum a soft furnisher.
“I was always hanging around the building site with dad or at the mill with grandad after school, so I just felt comfortable in that sort of environment.”
And she’s found reactions to being a female decorator mostly positive.
“I think it works in my favour, especially with female customers – they feel more comfortable with another woman coming in to their home.
“Men can sometimes be a bit baffled, but then just get on with it when they see I'm more than capable.
“There’s no reason why it should only be a man’s job and I would definitely recommend it to other women.”
However she did warn: “Be prepared to work really hard, have backache, do heavy lifting and get sweaty and dusty... what’s not to like, ha.”
But Louise is happy with her choice of career. “It’s the most satisfying job I’ve ever done.
“Your customers see how you’ve transformed their room and are delighted,” she said.
And not content to take on just one traditionally male occupation Louise has just finished a two-year City & Guilds plumbing course.
Lady Loo, anyone?
n Louise also “up-cycles” furniture. You can see her work at facebook.com/ pages/Lady-Lou-decorator/ 219014348219667?ref=hl
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