2019 Screwfix Trade Apprentice Finalist Leanne Dainty discusses her whirlwind of a year, and what it’s like to be an apprentice today.

2019 was hectic for Leanne Dainty, an apprentice from Nottingham working towards her NVQ Level 3 Plumbing and Heating apprenticeship. The year ended on a career highlight, when Leanne was awarded the first ever community award as part of the annual Screwfix Trade Apprentice competition.

Since then, Leanne has gone from strength-to-strength, growing her skills and experience as a plumbing apprentice, and demonstrating what can be achieved in the trade.

Urging others to consider a prosperous career as a tradesperson, Leanne has shared her first-hand experience and advice.

Q: What made you get into plumbing and heating?

A: I get asked this question regularly by tradespeople, customers, and even other apprentices. Through my working life in different roles, I always knew the key for me was to find a job with a practical element where I could be hands on. I love interacting with customers and get satisfaction out of knowing I have helped someone in need. It is a big morale boost for me.

I think the goal for many is to find a job where they know they will have a good income. As a child, I always said I wanted to be rich, the response I was met with by family or friends was “Leanne, you will need to become a doctor or a plumber”; I’ve yet to meet any apprentice doctors out there who have achieved so much at a young age!

Q: What is the main thing you’ve learnt as an apprentice?

A: It’s okay not to be sure about things, that’s why it’s an apprenticeship, you learn on the job and, most importantly, you learn from your mistakes and different experiences.

When I first started, I was embarrassed I didn’t know the names of certain tools or appliances, which I believe holds a lot of women back in particular as they feel they need to know everything right away. It is ok to learn as you go, you will know your profession inside out in no time.

Q: What inspires you about working as a tradesperson?

A: My biggest motivation is to leave clients with that face of surprise when they see the professional standard of work an apprentice has completed, be it a simple repair or a full installation.

Every time I see how impressed a customer is, it inspires me to continue. More and more women are getting into construction and plumbing and I want to be a role model for those thinking about entering the trade.

Q: What would you say to people considering an apprenticeship?

A: Absolutely go for it. There has never been a better time to consider an apprenticeship. Some of the opportunities available, particularly in the plumbing and heating sector are mesmerising. If people are anything like me and don’t want to be stuck at university or college studying for careers but achieving no actual experience, it’s a no brainer.

Your training is paid for and you are fully supported in every way to become whatever it is you set out to be. Not only that, there are competitions like Screwfix Trade Apprentice, which really help you to get a foot on the ladder, acknowledging those who show they have a real passion and commitment to be the best in their trade. Being one of the highly commended finalists last year has opened so many doors for me.

Q: Have you used your skills to give back in any way?

A: Yes, not only does giving back help others, but it also gives budding apprentices the chance to continue honing their skills. I have helped complete work at a local women’s refuge charity, helping to maintain the premises and ensuring all the equipment used there is safe and correctly fitted.

Having been an apprentice for three years now, I see how important it is to have someone you can look up to, who offers you encouragement, support, and keeps you motivated.

Q: What do you think should be done to encourage more tradespeople to hire an apprentice?

A: I think sometimes the age-old theory that apprentices are just there to carry the tools or make the tea is still quite prevalent. To be honest from my experiences, it’s the last thing we want to be doing. Apprentices are there to learn and achieve and a lot of the time the tradesperson who has an apprentice becomes their role model.

I have spent a lot of time working alongside Helen Cort as my mentor. Over time she has become not only my friend, but my role model. As I have grown in confidence and ability, we now work together as a really great team.

Q: What do you hope to achieve in the future?

A: I would love to achieve my Site Management Safety Training Scheme qualification and move through site managing once I’ve had a few good years on the tools. I would love to explore apprenticeship management as part of a company, using my skills and experience to be the vocal point for more women to consider a plumbing and heating apprenticeship.

If I were able to get them on board and support them throughout their careers, that would be the most heart-warming way for me to give back to driven individuals, as well as futureproofing the trade moving forward. The world is my oyster thanks to my apprenticeship and taking part in rewarding national competitions such as Screwfix Trade Apprentice.