Carol Smith was born and bred in Leeds. She is training to be a painter and decorator at Leeds College of Building. She was awarded a WEST bursary in 2015 of £100 towards equipment and tools.
Why painting and decorating?
After I split up with my ex, I had a few bad months. I was just sat there and I thought I want to do something! I thought about photography, and then I looked around my old house and I thought: you know what, I’m pretty good at painting. Every time I move house I always do the decorating, and I end up doing my sister’s too!
So I went to a taster day at Leeds College and I really enjoyed it. It gets me away from my kids too, gives me a bit of time out from them.
What did you want to be when you were a girl?
I wanted to be an actress. I tried beauty therapy but I didn’t like it. Then I did try performing arts too, but actually I prefer this.
What’s the best thing about decorating?
Painting! I find it really relaxing and therapeutic. I like colouring in the kids’ colouring books, and it’s like that for me. I’ve been learning wallpapering and it’s tricky, but I got a merit for it, so I’m impressed with myself. But painting is straight to the point, and it’s satisfying once you’ve filled it all in and you look at it.
What did you think about going into a male-dominated trade?
It did worry me a bit going into college, full of lads. When I got there I saw a few lasses and that made me feel better.
The lads can come out with comments if we get better marks than them. Obviously I’m not saying that we’re better than them but…we are better than them! One of my tutors says that women have an eye for details.
I just see it that they are having a laugh, but I know it can bother other lasses. I’ve grown up with two brothers and my dad and it’s full of banter and having a laugh and a joke, so I’m used to it. The tutors have been brilliant; you can have a laugh with them.
How did you feel when you got the bursary from WEST?
I felt brilliant. I’m thinking about getting new ladders because I’m borrowing my mum’s at the moment. Otherwise I’ll get a new pair of work boots. The ones I’ve got are right heavy and they rub my leg. One of the other girls has got comfy safety trainers with steel toe cap that you can wear to college.
Ambitions and plans for the future?
I want to do all the courses I can – level 2 and level 3 – and then go to work. If I was self-employed I could work around my kids being at school, that’s the good thing about this job.
A lot of people prefer women decorators to do the job because men can be a bit intimidating.
Advice to other girls and women thinking of training in painting and decorating?
If I wasn’t doing this I’d probably be doing nowt, just sat at home being terrorised by the kids. So I say go for it! Give it a go! Go for a taster day and see if you like it. If you don’t like it, at least you’ve tried. Oh, and don’t worry about the lads.