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Sexism hinders chippie

CITB takes up case of female apprentice carpenter who was laughed at while seeking work experience

A FEMALE apprentice carpenter has told how sexism is still rife in construction after she was mocked by potential employers.

Sophie Browning's experience comes just weeks after the CITB launched its Positive Image campaign to combat sexism in the industry.

The 18-year-old apprentice from Buckfastleigh in Devon is the only female studying for a carpentry apprenticeship at South Devon College. She is also the only student on the course yet to find a placement for the three-year NVQ.

She said: 'I phoned one company and asked for a placement.The man asked if it was for me and, when I said yes, he laughed.He was really rude and asked why I would want to do something like this.

'The rest of my class, who are all male, already have placements. If I don't get a placement I will have to repeat the year. I'm getting desperate but I really enjoy carpentry and still want to do it.This has only made me more determined.'

Ms Browning has done two weeks'work experience at joiner Tim Williams, of Dainton, near Newton Abbott, through the CITB.

Managing director Tim Williams said: 'Most companies won't even offer her work experience.There's no doubt that it's because she's a girl. Some of the people she has met have been quite hostile.'

Ms Browning's case has been taken up by the CITB, which is acting as her employer and trying to arrange work experience for her.

Stephen Hocking, her training adviser at the CITB, said: 'Sophie is talented and it is very important that the industry doesn't lose people like this. I can't explain why firms won't even take her on for work experience.

'Undoubtedly it's partly to do with the fact that she is a woman. It's a relatively common problem. When I asked an employer to place a similar girl to Sophie he said he would have to speak to his accountant and lawyer. That doesn't happen with boys.'