In 2012 Jenne Blake completed an adult apprenticeship on the Tunnel Boring Machine (TBM) site with Crossrail. She gained valuable experience with the machinery and loved the role and therefore wanted to go into a permanent position. But she found it hard to secure a role through standard recruitment channels.
Since then, Jenne has become a gold card electrician and worked on many construction sites across London, but always on a temporary, day to day basis.
“I was always working from one contract to the next, long days with uncertainty about when I would no longer be needed,” Jenne explained. “I always had to keep looking for my next job. But I wanted to get back to working on TBM electrical projects within the electrical engineering sector. I knew I had enough experience since my apprenticeship to succeed, my knowledge and work ethic would be a benefit to the industry, but I just couldn’t secure a role.
“Even though I applied for lots of jobs through agencies, it is extremely hard to be taken seriously in a male dominated field.”
STEM Returners contacted Jenne for a role with SCS Railways after seeing her TBM Mechanic experience on her CV. The 12-week placement was open to industry returners like Jenne, and she jumped at the chance to be considered.
The STEM Returners team supported Jenne through the application process and following an interview she was delighted to be told she had secured the placement role.
Jenne is now a full time, permanent member of the TBM Electrical Mechanical team with SCS for HS2. The TBM is a type of machine used to create tunnels through tough rock and soil. The TBM on the HS2 site is about the same size used to create the Elizabeth line.
“It’s incredibly rewarding to go full circle and come back to the industry, I did my apprenticeship 10 years ago. I am really enjoying it – I am on site every day, all day.
“In the past, I’ve been in situations where some managers and male electricians are not ready for an influx of women that are hands on, but here, I am working with a great group of people that are very inclusive and supportive – the foreman even did a toolbox talk about international women’s day.”
Jenne explained: “A toolbox talk facilitates health and safety discussions at the start of the day normally specific subjects like for example wearing ear defender’s when using loud machinery and the workers normally sign the paperwork that we have understood. My Foreman Woody read out an article for international women’s day and added his thoughts regarding women with trades, if they want to get their hands dirty on a building site they should be allowed to do so.
“Over the years I’ve worked with an organisation called Women Into Construction who advocated for more women on site. I would like to encourage other female electricians to register with returners programmes so that they can receive excellent opportunities like I have. We need to see more female representatives that are ‘hands on’ in construction.”