The opportunities for women in trade industries

It’s no secret that trade professions are traditionally male dominated, but the options for women within the industry are starting to grow. Britain is currently experiencing a trade skills shortage, with gaps of 1.8 million workers in engineering alone, so there has never been a better time to get started in a trade. 

Here, Kerry-Anne Berry, director at ECTA Training, explores the career opportunities available for women.

Trade industries are currently struggling to fill vacancies, and this skills gap is arguably having an extremely negative impact on the UK’s productivity levels as whole and thus, the economy. One potential positive to this current lack of workers is the opportunity that it can offer for women who are perhaps looking for a career change or to get into work.

The changing workplace

Research shows that in the UK women still only make up around 6% of the trade workforce. These figures are gradually increasing, but slowly. Between 1999 and 2014 the numbers of women in trade careers, such as engineering and construction, only rose by 2%.

While there is still a long way to go in ensuring gender equality in trade professions in terms of actual numbers, attitudes and views are increasingly improving. Almost half of women working in trade positions believe that attitudes towards women in the workplace have got better, so there is progress being made in a less tangible sense. With the combination of changing attitudes and thousands of job opportunities in trade, there has never been a better time for women to consider a transition into a trade industry role.

A smart career?

One industry in particular that is crying out for new recruits is smart meter engineering. For the Government to hit its 2020 target of installing 50 million smart meters in UK homes, it has been estimated that another 6,500 qualified engineers are needed for installing the meters during peak times, leaving a significant skills shortfall.

This goal, taking into account present workforce levels, is starting to look unattainable. In fact, with only three years to go, there’s only been around 4.9 million smart meters installed so far – less than 10% of the target.

To really be in with a fighting chance of reaching the 2020 goal, there needs to be significantly more qualified smart meter engineers available. As such, the industry is crying out for men and women to take advantage of this opportunity where they can gain secure, well paid employment. In fact, there are many benefits on offer to those who enter this profession, just like many other trade career paths.

Encouraging women into trade

An important aspect of attracting women into trades is by communicating the substantial benefits on offer. Flexibility is often cited as a plus point, which can be appealing for those who require more control over their own schedule. Many women who work in trade careers (80%) are their own bosses, employing on average two other people, so these careers could also be attractive to those who are entrepreneurial and prefer to work on a self-employed basis. Perhaps most importantly, many trade careers can be very well paid. In fact, a survey of females working in trade careers revealed that 60% chose their career path based on the earning potential available to them.

Many women may not be aware of the potential benefits in these careers, so more needs to be done to ensure this information is available to those who are looking for a new career. To ensure that these messages are effectively communicated, businesses need to ensure that their recruitment drives are also offering opportunities to females, from as early as school or college level. These roles need to be presented as accessible regardless of gender, and highlight that opportunities are equal for both male and female applicants.

To make gender equality in trade a reality, and provide significant support to a number of industries suffering from skills shortages, trade businesses and training bodies need to collaborate to present opportunities for women in an accessible and attractive way. This could not only help to plug areas of the skills gap, but offer a beneficial career path to many women looking for a change in profession.

For more information on the smart meter rollout and the courses ECTA Training provides, please visit