Bristan interviews Becky Bates (@Becky_BBPlumb on Twitter) about life on the tools, the products which make her life easier, and how more women can be encouraged into the trade.
First things first, how did you get into the trade and why?
I began my career as a plumber about 10 years ago. I’d had various different jobs before then, but nothing felt quite right. Then, I spotted an advert in the local paper for a plumbing course and so, with the help of my grandad, I went back to college.
As to why, for me it was about getting a qualification which would be the foundation for a solid career. Both of my parents have their own businesses and I saw plumbing as an opportunity to, one day, do the same. The fact that it led to a career which I absolutely love, well that’s a Brucey Bonus!
Have you had any challenges as a woman working in the trade? What reaction do you get from your customers?
Overall, I’ve had a pretty good experience. Yes, you’ll occasionally get the odd sexist remark, but I find that if you get on with the job and demonstrate that you know what you’re talking about, you can prove them wrong and change their perception.
Is this the way it should be? Well, no, but Rome wasn’t built in a day. Visibility is key – the more women we have in the industry, the more normal female tradespeople will seem. Man or woman, folk really just want a job done well for a reasonable price with minimum hassle.
What do you think should be done to encourage more women into plumbing?
Although there is still work to be done, I think we have come on leaps and bounds since I came into the industry. The main factor for me is getting girls interested from a young age. This falls to schools, but also parents. They need to know that any job in the construction industry is not only feasible, but also a viable career. It’s just not put to them as an option. This, to me, is crazy – we are losing out on potential talent, and the potential for young people to have a successful career.
How do you earn business for yourself?
Right now, generating business is more important for me than ever. Since moving to Wales I’m having to essentially start again. I have built good relationships with local merchants who in turn have been recommending me. I have been delivering leaflets door to door, and I’ve found having signage on my van has also generated business too. Word of mouth is really important, and I’m in the process of looking into other forms of advertising.
What role does social media play in your career?
Social media gives me a sense of being part of something. When I first started out in my career, at times I did feel like I was on my own. Twitter enabled me to chat to some of the finest engineers is our industry and not only helped build my confidence, but also widened my knowledge. It’s also a great laugh too!
What are the products which make life easier for you?
Right now, it’s got to be Bristan’s Easyfit taps, they’re a really solid piece of kit. I’ve been installing Bristan throughout my career, as I like to use British companies and I really like the products. I very rarely get call backs when I fit Bristan, and on the few occasions that I do, the customer service is top notch.
Do you find that customers often ask for your advice when choosing products?
Yes and no. I always recommend high quality brands for their reliability and guarantee, but ultimately the customer will always be driven by cost and how nice the product looks in-situ. You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make them drink.
Finally, what do you see for the future of the trade?
The plumbing industry is rapidly changing, so it’s hard to make concrete predictions. But, what I hope to see is a 50/50 balance of male and female engineers – for me, that’s a bright future.