Breaking down barriers
Sarah Driscoll on becoming a Qualified Supervisor at SELECT Member firm Alltec Construction Ltd
Sarah Driscoll says it’s encouraging to see other women following her up the electrical career ladder – and believes the barriers are breaking down with every step.
After passing her Advanced Competency Assessment (ACA) in January, the 28-year-old is now Electrical Manager and Qualified Supervisor (QS) for SELECT Member firm Alltec Construction Ltd.
Sarah oversees the day-to-day running of the electrical side of the business and says that although it’s becoming more commonplace, she is still very much aware of being a woman in the electrical industry.
She revealed: “As a female, I feel like you have to prove yourself that wee bit more and have to do a bit more to try to gain respect.
“Every so often I do go on the tools with the guys and it gives them an opportunity to see me working.
“When you walk on to site, a lot of guys who haven’t worked with women before don’t know how to speak to you or how to act because it’s not their norm. Sometimes they think, ‘Oh you just work in an office. It’s an easy life – you just sit behind a computer.’
“But the good thing is that when they do start speaking to you, they realise, ‘Oh, actually she’s just a normal person’ and start treating you as one of the guys. And then when they see me actually on the tools and working, they also start to realise, ‘Actually, she IS one of us and she can muck in as well’.”
Away from the office, Sarah has also been keen to break down the typical stereotype of an electrician – and says she’s seen for herself that more women are coming into the industry.
She told us: “When you speak to people about being a female electrician, they’re like, ‘Oh, that’s rare.’ But actually when I started my apprenticeship, there was another girl in my college class at the same time, plus there was a female in the year above me, one in the year below me and another below that who was coming through too.
“The company with whom I did my apprenticeship also had mostly women working with them so I was always surrounded by females and didn’t find it that uncommon.”
Like many of those contemporaries, Sarah also revealed that she knew she wanted to do something with her hands from an early age and enjoys the variety of her chosen career.
She said: “I’ve always been a hands-on person, always been quite outdoorsy, always been a bit more practical in what I like to do, so I knew something like being an electrician would suit me professionally.
“I like the fact that it’s different types of work all the time, from domestic, industrial-commercial and inspection and testing to maintenance, fire alarms, door entry and data.
“Being an electrician just leads to so many things, so you can be doing a wide variety of tasks every day and every day is different.
“I do enjoy doing a full install from start to finish though, so you get to do it from wiring and fitting out to testing and see the finished project.”
After passing her ACA, Sarah says she’s proud to be the QS for Glenrothes-based Alltec, which specialises in house building, construction, facilities management, interior design and space planning and interior fit-out and refurbishment.
Established in 2003 as a small electrical contractor in Dunfermline, the firm expanded into other construction trades and now employs more than 50 staff across a range of professions.
Sarah said: “I’d always wanted to go for my Approved status and do something a wee bit more – it was just a step up. Getting to this point has been one of the things I’ve wanted and as Electrical Manager I’m more office-based and run all the electrical side and all the guys here. I’d always wanted to work towards becoming more office-based, dealing with clients and quoting for things, so this is more of what I wanted to do.”
After ACA, Sarah says she isn’t sure about her next step up the electrical career ladder.
She told us: “I haven’t massively thought about what’s next but at the moment it’s good and I really enjoy my work. It’s also good knowing that you worked hard and managed to achieve something that isn’t currently so common for women – but it IS coming.”
Alltec Construction Ltd
PHONE: 01592 771 854