Jessica Taylor, electrician

Challenge: to reduce the level of ethnic and gender segregation in education at all levels

By the time she was 18, Jessica Taylor was the mother of a three year-old boy. She was working part time as a beauty therapist and earning £200 per week. “I was struggling to make ends meet,” she says.

Her life turned around after she attended an equal opportunities workshop run by the YWCA in Wolverhampton. She was asked to rank a range of careers in order of the best to the worst paid.

“I noticed that electricians were quite high up,” she recalls.:

“It got me thinking: why can’t I be an electrician, why do I have to work in a bar or a beauty salon?

“I started to say to people I wanted to be an electrician and they’d say ‘you can’t be an electrician’, and I’d say ‘why’, and they’d say ‘because you’re a girl’. So I thought I’m going to prove you wrong and that I can do it.”

Jessica admits that she spent her early teenage years smoking, drinking and playing truant from school. When Kieran was born she realised she had to find a career, but wasn’t sure how to go about it. “I didn’t get any advice on careers at school, nothing really. My ex boyfriend said ‘why don’t you do beauty therapy’ – and I thought, that sounds alright.”

Once she decided to retrain as an electrician, she enrolled at a local college. She passed her preliminary exams and applied for jobs. After putting out 15 CVs she got an interview with Doncaster Council.

“Within 15 minutes of walking out of the interview I got a call to say that I had got the job out of the 200 people that applied. I was over the moon.

“The atmosphere where I work is very loud and dirty. I have to climb through lofts and under floor ducts. I’ve seen rats and lots of huge spiders. I really do enjoy being an electrician it’s opened so many doors for when I am qualified.”

Now at the age of 23 Jessica is in her forth and final year before becoming fully qualified. Her ambition is to learn her trade before setting up her own electrician’s business catering for female customers.

She thinks more girls should follow her example, but warns: “You have got to be prepared to work hard and put a lot of effort into it – you have to do the same as the men.

“But it’s worth it. It also means that now I’ve got savings - I’ve gone abroad on holiday, I can buy new clothes and things for Kieran, I’ve bought a car, and I’m doing up my house. All that wouldn’t have been possible if I hadn’t changed my career.”

Significant findings:  education

> Significant challenges: chance to learn and realise talents

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