Plumbing Apprentices Amazing Success

Article originally published in Hips Magazine

Lauren Winter is a Level 2 Plumbing apprentice at Coventry College, who was recently recognised with the highly commended award in the Screwfix Trade Apprentice 2018 Award.

After becoming pregnant and being unable to finish her course in 2011, she was forced to drop out and began working in retail.

However, the 24-year-old was determined to begin a career in plumbing and so re-enrolled on a course in September 2017. She is set to complete her final exam this week and is hoping to eventually run her own female-only plumbing business.

She is a member of the Heroes of Heat community-based initiative and is the first female volunteer and apprentice to lend her hand to those in need.

HIP: How did you first get into plumbing?

Lauren Winter: In 2011, I studied on the level 2 plumbing and heating course. In December, I found out I was pregnant and because there was lead on the course, they said, ‘you can’t finish the course, you’ll have to come back.’ I went back and they said we’ve changed to a different course. I left that and I thought I’ll never go back to it. I started working in retail. I found that pretty boring and thought I need to get back into a trade. I knew I wanted it to be plumbing. When I was told, ‘you can’t finish’, I’m the sort of person that when I’m told I can’t, I say I can. I went back into college in June last year for an interview and I’ve been on the level 2 course since September. I’ve got my final exam of communications for the level 2 course and then that’s complete. Then I need to upgrade to the NVQ so I’ve already spoken to tutors and they’ve put me on for NVQ side of assessment, starting imminently.

HIP: What work experience have you gained?

LW: In Easter half term, during the first week I went to work for a builder alongside his plumber, for voluntary work. I’m still working for him but he’s just mentioned about paying monies and stuff – but at the moment it’s a case of all the gear and no idea!

HIP: Had you always wanted to be a plumber?

LW: When I left school, I did photography but there wasn’t a lot of jobs in it. I wanted to be a plumber on cruise ships and travel the world. I was thinking ahead – there’s a job market. I went into somewhere where I had a job market, but it was being told I couldn’t finish it off, which gave me the determination to go back to it. It was a case of following my heart and I knew I had to go into the plumbing.

HIP: How did you get on in the Screwfix Trade Apprentice 2018 Award?

LW: On 27th April we went to the final and I was highly commended. The prize was £1,000 which was really quite nice. From that I more or less kitted myself with all the tools I need. I had to put in an application form for their general competition and found out by email I’d got through to the semi-finals. We had to make a video about where we wanted to be in ten years’ time. I then found out I was in the finals. For the finals, we had interview processes with representatives from Google and Screwfix, the CIPHE and a few more. It was a big interview and then we had a tour round Google HQ and a talk. We had a Lego competition that I luckily won, I made a model horse!

HIP: What is it like being a female plumber?

LW: It’s really good actually, I get quite a lot of respect. Whilst out working some of the lads, they can be a bit laddy towards each other, but when I am asked to do something it’s quite polite. There’s a lot of respect there which is always very good. To begin with, trying to find work, people didn’t quite accept me. More or less I had to prove I was serious about it, so I went and bought a van! On my adverts, I can put that I’ve got my own van. It did feel like people didn’t take me seriously being female. Whether they thought I’m not as strong… I’m not as strong as some guys, but ultimately there’s a lot of jobs I can still do, especially the finer ones that men can’t do because they want to get in and get the job done as quick as possible. Whereas with Lee, who has taken me under his wing at the minute, he said, ‘we want you to work on vanity units, taps, sinks, because we know you’d be careful.’

HIP: How did you go about becoming the first female volunteer for Heroes of Heat?

LW: There’s quite a lengthy story. I was down in Bournemouth for the photoshoot for Screwfix, they wanted me to be in their catalogue. I put a post on Facebook asking if anybody was down in the local area to meet to talk about trade. I was contacted and asked if I wanted to come and meet them. That’s how I got involved with them, it’s very recent. We’re off to Nottingham on Saturday. I believe I was the first female!

HIP: What are your ambitions?

LW: I’ve set myself a ten-year plan. Towards the end of that ten years, I’d quite like my own business – a female-only business covering Coventry and Warwickshire, with a bit of a reputation. My daughter Ellie is now five. In ten years’ time she is going to be starting to look for work – hopefully I’ll have her as my apprentice, that’s my ultimate goal! She already has the Timberland work boots and plumbing trousers!

HIP: How would you describe yourself in three words?

LW: Spontaneous, dedicated and positive.