Paula's Story

Paula Bowes lives in Leeds and is training to be a painter and decorator at Leeds College of Building. She was awarded a WEST bursary of £100 towards equipment in 2015.

What inspired you to want to be a painter and decorator?

I used to do admin work until I went on maternity leave.  I was just going to be a stay at home mum for a while with my two kids, but I got bored at home all day every day. Then one night I was painting the kitchen. The kids were in bed and I had music on the radio, and I thought: I quite like this – I wonder if I could do this for a job! The next day I rang Leeds College of Building and they said come down to a taster day. We had a go at painting, and I loved it.

What did you think about it being a male-dominated trade?

On the taster day I was the only girl. I was a bit nervous at first going in but all the guys were opening doors for me and treating me like a queen. It was lovely. I’m not really treated any different, although – when I got a distinction for my glossed door – there was this one guy who said it was because I was a girl, and he was going to come in wearing a skirt so he’d get better marks! I spoke to my tutor and said it wasn’t fair. I’m an adult, and I shouldn’t be treated like this. They said they would keep an eye out and it’s been fine.

What’s the best thing about painting and decorating?

I liked painting best at first because I’d not done much wallpapering. But now I’ve done wallpapering I love it! I’ve wallpapered my grandma’s office and also a woman’s house. I’m a bit of a perfectionist so I like it when you’ve finished and you think to yourself: actually it’s really neat and I’m impressed.

What did you want to be when you were little?

A running coach because I was really good at running at school. But then when I was a teenager I went out with my mates and had a boyfriend and stopped running. At one point I wanted to be a property developer. But I couldn’t afford property so I got jobs and worked in admin. I like painting and decorating because it’s sort of linked to it.

How did you feel when you got the bursary from WEST?

I was well chuffed!  I’ve just bought a ladder, so it pretty much covered that.

What are your ambitions?

To have a big van with my name on it. My daughter says I’ve got to get one with three seats in the front so we can all sit in it! I want to work for myself, doing people’s houses. I might do contract work in the winter but I’m not so keen on doing so many rooms all the same, usually magnolia! My daughter wants mini overalls so she can come with me! I’m letting her have a little patch in the hall so she can paint a picture on it. I want her to get involved.

Any advice to other girls and women thinking of training to be painter and decorators?

Just if you think you are going to be good at it, go for it! I’ve got a friend who has just had a baby. Her boyfriend is struggling to get work, and her job’s not great. She would love to get into joinery. So I said get in touch with college and have a go.

See Paula’s facebook page by searching for Paula Bowes Painter & Decorator