Although trade careers are traditionally very male-dominated, there are a growing number of opportunities for women to take up roles within the sector. The current trade skills shortage is so severe that Britain will need more than a million new engineers and technicians to fill crucial gaps, so there is no better time for women to look into this career path. Here, Kerry-Anne Berry, director at ECTA Training, discusses the opportunities for women across the trade industry.

While the huge shortfalls in workforces across many trade sectors is an ongoing struggle for the UK economy and industry, it does offer an opportunity for women who are either looking for a change in career or are perhaps out of work.

For example, in the smart metering industry alone it has been estimated that another 6,500 qualified engineers are urgently needed for the Government to hit its target of installing 50 million meters in homes and businesses by 2020. Roles in smart metering can offer an opportunity for women who are looking for a change in career and to take up a job that is flexible, well-paid and secure.

With the current workforce, the 2020 smart meter target is unattainable, but if more women could be encouraged into considering this career path the shortage could be significantly reduced. With more career opportunities available in the trade industry than ever before, now is the time for communicating the benefits and roles available to women.

Research has shown that in the UK, women only make up around 6% of those working in trade careers. Statistics have also shown that between 1999 and 2014 the number of women working in trade careers like engineering and construction only increased by 2%. This is far from being equal, and more needs to be done by trade businesses to gain interest from female job-hunters.

There are also a number of reasons why starting out in a trade career could be extremely attractive to many women. According to a survey of female employees working in construction and trade careers, 60% chose their current job based on potential earning in the industry. Trade careers can also appeal to women who want greater flexibility and are entrepreneurial as they can work to their own schedule and are often working on a self-employed basis. In fact, 80% of women working in trade careers are their own bosseses and employ on average two other people.

To generate more interest from women, business leaders need to ensure that any recruitment campaigns are also targeting female candidates, and that their roles appear accessible and equal in opportunity for male and female applicants. There also needs to better information available for women of all ages around the benefits of working in a trade career. Many may not be aware of the various advantages of these professions, so from as early as school or college, trade businesses and training bodies need to be communicating with women to ensure they are aware of the opportunities available.

Despite there still being a lot of work to be done to boost gender equality in trade careers, there have been improvements made. For example, 42% of women working in trade roles believe that attitudes in the workplace have improved, highlighting the noticeable progress that has been made. To make sure improvements continue more needs to be done to ensure that women feel confident in entering the industry which will in turn boost levels in the trade workforce.