Cathy’s Story

Cathy Kelland works as a trainee joiner for a kitchen and bathroom fitting business in Sheffield. After 12 year career in science, she retrained in joinery and carpentry at the Sheffield Construction and Design Centre. Cathy received a £100 bursary from WEST in 2017 for tools.

Why did you want to become a joiner?

I’ve always liked making things and doing practical work at home. My husband isn’t interested in DIY and I get frustrated when I see that something needs doing! I took a career break when I had children and came across the joinery courses in the Construction and Design Centre (CDC) and knew I wanted to join. CDC was totally flexible, which meant I could fit training around childcare, which was really important to me.

I didn’t have a plan to become a joiner at that stage, but I loved the courses and my job evolved from there.

How did you go about getting your job?

I have a friend who fits kitchens and bathrooms. His apprentice had just left, so he was looking for a replacement. I wasn’t confident about working on my own after leaving CDC, so it was great when this opportunity came up as it allowed me to build on the skills I learnt at college and work on ‘live’ projects.

He said I could work shadow him for a couple of weeks, and two and a half years later I’m still there!

What do you like about joinery?

I particularly enjoyed the level 2 diploma, which was Site Carpentry and Joinery. We learnt how to carry out a wide range of first and second fix operations, such as erecting partitions, hanging doors, creating access hatches, and fitting architrave , which I really loved.

In work, I love the fact that you can create anything if you have the right tools and skills, whether that is a bespoke garden gate or a loft conversion. I also enjoy working with people too – our customers are so nice to us and the banter is great.

What did you think about going into a male-dominated trade?

I didn’t have any misgivings about it because I’ve worked with lots of men before. Gender is not really an issue to me; if you are nice in life, people are generally nice back.

What is it like training and working in the trade as a woman?

At college I was the only woman out of about eight boys, who were mainly aged 17 – 20. Once they got used to me being around, they just go on with it.  My boss doesn’t treat me differently – he takes me at face value. Obviously I’m not as strong as many 25 year old blokes, but I can carry a 25 kilo bag of cement mix!

Most customers seem a bit surprised because I’m not 18 and I’m a woman, but people are usually lovely and really supportive. I have found it a really positive experience.

Plans and ambitions?

I don’t have a specific career plan ahead – I’m really happy doing what I do and still have a lot to learn. My children are young and work needs to fit into family life, so I don’t feel under pressure to make long term decisions at this stage.

Advice to other women thinking of joinery?

The most important thing is that you do something that you want to do. I don’t think I was brought up in a way where I felt that I couldn’t do things or try them out because I was a girl. ­ I don’t think that women are better than men, or men are better than women. Everybody has their strengths and weaknesses – and we’re all in it together!