Case study – Electrics

Training in the Trades and Self employment – Electrics


Donna Lister, Electrician

In her previous career, as a manager in the voluntary sector, Donna found shuffling papers really frustrating. “When youre a manager you dont seem to do any work! It was like – ‘What have I been doing?’…I havent actually, physically, produced anything’. And thats what really nice about the electrics. You leave at the end of the day and you can see what youve done.”

Donna had enjoyed physics at school, so thought about retraining as an electrician. To make sure it was the right choice for her, she did a couple of days work experience with her electrician. “He was just laughing his head off, he thought it was hilarious – but I quite enjoyed it, so I decided to go for it, give up work and study.”

She trained at Lambeth College, studying part time and working the rest of her week. Getting this work experience, however, was quite a challenge. “I must have phoned about fifty or sixty electricians, and they were like ‘Is it for your son, love?’, and I said ‘No, its for me!’. Eventually, through Women and Manual Trades, Donna made contact with an electrician based Walthamstow, and ended up working with her. She counts herself lucky to have stumbed across her – “shes got such high standards, and to learn from someone like that is really good.“

She’s now been working for herself for several years. Being self-employed was something she always had in mind – “to be my own boss, really“. So what advice can a tradeswomen of her experience offer to others thinking of setting up in business? Donna says new self-employed tradeswomen should approach pricing and estimating carefully – “overestimate the number of hours youre going to take if you’re doing an estimate. Because it will take you that long! And be prepared to lose a bit of money to begin with, but make sure you sort of learn from that.” She also stresses the importance of keeping up good communication with clients – “that’s where I win a lot of clients – or clients are very happy…If I’m going to be ten minutes late I’ll phone, or text, say Ill be a little bit late. And I just think doing things like that make a huge amount of difference. It just means you can offer a better service, at no extra effort really.“

Donna clearly finds her job now more satisfying than her paper-shuffling previous life. “Doing a re-wire, for example, is really nice. Youve done a whole house and its brand new, and all working, clients have got sockets where they want them, and lights that they want… I’s just nice to do something like that“. Shes also been pleased to find that a career in electrics has its financial rewards. She was prepared to take an initial drop in earnings, compared to her management job – “which I did, obviously, to start with. But I’m probably now earning what I was earning before, as a manager, which is really nice.“