Electrician Workshop

Janette Hirst - Electrician and Assessor

Electrician and Assessor

When I was younger, my dad was an electrician and ran his own electrical business. I started working for him in 1988 and did my electrician apprenticeship at Huddersfield Technical College (now Kirklees College).

College could be challenging then, as boys and girls didn't mix as much with single sex schools. The teachers were fabulous, but some of the students could be quite horrible. I often spent break times alone, keeping away from the rest of my class.

I decided at that point that the only way I would succeed was to get my head down, continue, and qualify. I went on to become ‘Apprentice of the Year' and was in the local newspapers, so it was a very positive outcome.

I must say that I have met very little sexism throughout my career. I believe this is probably because I always “cracked on,” behaved equal, and so was treated equally and with respect. This wasn’t always the case with customers.

I was once sent to an old lady's house to fit a burglar alarm box. I got the ladders off the van and knocked on the door to introduce myself. The lady was mortified and didn't think a young girl should be going up ladders and didn't want me to do it. She meant it in a kind way, but it took me 15 minutes to convince her it was my job and that I had been up ladders many times before!

Another time, I was at Hartshead Services where I went to lay a cable for an outside light. The manager explained where he wanted the light. I went to the van and got my pickaxe out to start digging my trench. I was just about to start when a male labourer on site grabbed the axe out of my hand, wielded it over his shoulder, and struck the ground. When he next raised it, he struck himself in his head and got taken to hospital. I then got on with the job, but how I laughed!!

Over my career, I worked as an electrician and then as a lecturer at Huddersfield Technical College (which later became Kirklees College). I remember when I started, I went to my first few classes and I heard students saying in shock, “We've got a woman?!” All was fine though. They soon got used to me teaching them, and again I suffered no sexism.

I have now been here at Leeds College of Building as an NVQ Assessor for almost 8 years. I do get funny looks sometimes when I walk on site and contractors are trying to work out whether I am a man or a woman (I'm tall, skinny, and have short hair, so wearing a hard hat and hi-viz makes it hard to tell!).

I'm always treated respectfully on site, and some of my students ask me whether I'm qualified. Employers can also ask me about my background, but out of interest and not malice. I love my job and have found the College to be a fabulous place to work.