Founded more than 40 years ago, Hewer Facilities Management has established itself as a regional leader in gas engineering and plumbing — and its long-running apprenticeship programme has helped multiple promising engineers from across Gloucestershire gain the qualifications and training needed to enter a career in the trade.
As part of SoGlos's celebration of apprentices, and to coincide with National Apprenticeship Week 2024, we caught up with Charlie Lloyd who is working and thriving as Hewer FM's first ever female gas engineering apprentice, to get the lowdown on what it's like to work in a traditionally male-dominated industry.
What motivated you to pursue a career in gas engineering, how did you first become interested in this industry?
I suppose I was inspired by my mum, she teaches plumbing at college level, and when everyone had to work from home during the Covid-19 lockdowns I got to see what she was teaching her students first-hand.
I found it all really interesting and wanted to give it a go, so when I left school I knew I wanted to take on a full-time Level 2 plumbing course, which then led me to go into an apprenticeship with Hewer FM.
So now here I am, approaching the end of a four year apprenticeship and by the end of this year I will be a fully-qualified and gas safe registered engineer.
Can you share some of your experiences and challenges as the first female gas engineering apprentice in the company?
Being Hewer's first female gas engineer apprentice wasn't really something that came into my mind or something that I aimed to be — I just wanted to work towards getting a job that I enjoy.
So far it's been great, with a new problem to solve every day. Of course, if I were to highlight a challenge, I've had instances where people have refused to have me at jobs and have asked for a man instead, but that is very irregular.
I love every second of the job and would recommend it to any other girl out there considering it.
In response to these challenges, how has Hewer FM supported your journey as a female apprentice in a traditionally male-dominated industry?
The company supports me as a female apprentice as they would anyone else at Hewer’s — that's one of the best things, I'm treated as an equal — we have team bonding days where we can all have a laugh and everyone is involved and no one is singled out.
Although I acknowledge it's such a male-dominated industry, I've never felt as if I have never been stereotyped. I work alongside an excellent engineer that offers me expert guidance and mentorship, so I never feel like I'm on my own, but I'm still empowered to make my own decisions while on jobs.
He understands the challenges that women could potentially face in this field day-to-day, such as what I pointed out earlier, and he's helped me to build my confidence to deal with these issues in the future, once I'm qualified.
Do you have any advice for other women who may be interested in pursuing a career in gas engineering or a similar trade?
I would 100 per cent advise other women to get into careers like gas engineering or similar. I'd say you have to believe in yourself, take on all the advice and knowledge from your mentor and be resilient when challenges come up, because they will — but the world is changing.
At the base though, it's a great skill to learn and you can make some good friends. At Hewer we all help each other out, so if I am stuck on a job there is always someone that I can call for help.
Are there any specific skills or qualities that have been particularly beneficial towards your success in this role?
So I'm dyslexic, so I do find it difficult when it comes to writing things and I find it easier to get out and do the actual job rather than sitting and reading a book about it, I think that's why the apprenticeship avenue worked so well for me.
I would say doing the job physically really benefits me and helps me to learn, because I'm always having to use my problem-solving skills and ensure that I produce high-quality work everyday and as we're client facing I also have to be confident and friendly — service with a smile!
Can you share a memorable or rewarding experience during your apprenticeship that highlights the positive aspects of working in this industry?
At Hewer’s, we get things like days out for all the good work we have done. One example is when we went go-karting and then went for food after which was all paid for by the company; we also have barbecues in the summer where we all get half a day off as a reward for all the good work we do.
Although it's not always lifechanging, it can be a really rewarding experience being able to get someone's heating back on — especially by solving a particularly tricky issue — and it can mean the world to some households. No one likes being cold, so being able to help people live better lives everyday helps to make working in this industry worthwhile.
How do you balance work, studying and your personal life as an apprentice?
It can be busy, but I try to balance work and my personal life as an apprentice by getting through my hours at work the best I can, then coming home and going to the gym or watching a film with my friends and family.
On the weekends I like to go out with my friends and let off steam, especially if I've had a particularly intense week!
Finally, what changes or improvements would you like to see in the industry to encourage more diversity and inclusion in gas engineering apprenticeships and professions?
It would be so nice to have more females in the industry, but I can understand why some people may find it daunting.
I do think
more women are doing it, I suppose I'm proof of that, and in the future, hopefully it will be less unusual to see a female gas engineer pop up on your doorstep to look at your boiler.