A careers adviser once told a South Tyneside mum that she could never be a joiner because she was a woman.
But determined Michelle Whale, from South Shields, refused to let that stop her and she is now an apprentice joiner with construction specialist Keepmoat.
As part of National Apprenticeship Week, the 24-year-old is keen to encourage other women to go for the jobs they want, even if it is in a typically male-dominated profession.
Michelle, who is mum to three-year-old Millie, said: “I think it’s important that women – and mums in particular – don’t feel put off from entering any roles that are typically associated with men.
“My bosses at Keepmoat have gone out of their way to ensure I felt no different and they even arranged for me to finish 30 minutes earlier every day so I could pick up my daughter.”
Michelle was a full-time mum until last September when her foster mother spotted an advert for apprentice joiners and encouraged her to apply.
Michelle said: “I find it crazy that in 2016 there is still a stigma that you have to be a guy to work in construction. We live in a world where it is now universally accepted for men to work as hairdressers, flight attendants or even in beauty salons; but it’s still deemed a bit strange for a women to want a hands-on role.
“I’ve only been working with Keepmoat for a few months and my mentor has already told me that I’m one of the best apprentices he’s ever had.”
Geoff Scott, employment and skills manager, said: “Keepmoat has always been keen to encourage more women to get in to this great industry and we’re proud that 22% of our apprentices are female. While still not as big as we would like it, this is a lot higher than our peers and we are working to improve this further.”