Laura C's Story

Laura, aged 26, is currently training in painting and decorating at Leeds College of Building and also cares for her grandfather. WEST awarded her a £100 bursary towards equipment and other costs.

Why did you want to become a painter and decorator?
My mum was always been the one doing the decorating and DIY in our house. I remember when I was about six she did a carpentry course. She made me a toy box and I’ve still got it now. She made a book case and a gate outside. I just thought it was normal for women to do jobs like that, I mean why not? What I really like is when you go into a room and it looks shabby and then you make it look good. I enjoy seeing the final results after all the hard work is complete. I don’t like sanding down, and my favourite job is definitely wall papering. It is sometimes a challenge and I like the satisfaction of lining it all up right.

What did you want to be when you were little?
I used to like singing and dancing. I liked watching music videos on MTV and copying them, and dressing up to be a singer or dancer. I never had much support or understanding at school, it was awful for me. But I decided it was time to progress in life and went to the job centre. I said wanted to do something hands on, and that I didn’t want to work in retail or an office. They suggested the Leeds College of Building. From that I went on a taster day in painting and decorating, plumbing and tiling, and I really liked decorating.

What are your ambitions?
I have just finished doing a level 2 painting and decorating diploma. I would like to progress and do level 3 and also work one day work for a company, as well as looking after my granddad. My dream now is to work for myself eventually and run my own business, but it’s confidence again. Being at college has made me much more confident, but I want to get some work experience too. I would have liked to have done an apprenticeship because then I could have got the full NVQ from the onsite experience, but they are hard to get. I think there should be more apprenticeships specifically for women – and that they should have better wages too.

What did you feel about learning a male-dominated trade?
At first I was nervous, because I’m not a confident person. But when I got there everyone was really friendly. At first I was the only female student, but then later on another female joined. It was alright because the guys that I surrounded myself with made me feel very comfortable and confident. We all helped each other. Women have a better eye for detail than men and there definitely should be more women doing decorating.

What did you think when you got your WEST bursary?
To be honest I didn’t think I’d get it because I already had done level 2, but I thought why not apply. So I was surprised and pleased to get it.

Any advice for other girls or women thinking of becoming painters and decorators?
Just got for it! Don’t be shy, don’t hold back. If you’ve got a dream, follow it. Painting and decorating and other jobs are not just for men, they are for women as well.