International Women's Day: Abba's story
After training as a chef and having two sons, Abba Flint was determined to find a career that gave her flexibility around her family commitments.
Abba is now one of our first female multi-trade apprentices, specialising in plumbing and getting compliments from customers for her friendly, professional approach.
Seven months into her three-year apprenticeship, she is enjoying the wide range of skills she is learning on the job and at college and also loving meeting customers and their pets.
“I’m really good with our customers as I take time to chat to them and put them at their ease,” says Abba. “I always explain what I am doing and why and I like to give them a few tips when I leave so they can check for themselves that everything is as it should be. I also love animals and make a fuss of their pets!
“Female customers in particular like having a female operative come into their home to do a repair, while women from different cultures often feel more comfortable.”
Although her dad was a builder and she was interested in DIY, Abba originally chose catering over construction due to what she describes “the males only” tag associated with the industry.
“There’s a lot of bias in the construction world and I didn’t want to face all that so I became a chef instead. Then I had my two sons and was at home with them but as soon as the youngest went to school I was determined not to be stuck in a nothing job and to have a career.”
The Women in Construction programme had just launched and Abba got on to a six-week taster course at Dudley College where she tried bricklaying, carpentry, painting, decorating and plumbing to see if a career in construction suited. The course included achieving a CSCS card which provides proof that individuals working on construction sites have the appropriate training, first aid training, help with developing her CV and a guaranteed interview for an apprenticeship.
Abba got good feedback from her interview but wanted to pursue other apprenticeship opportunities that could offer a longer-term career. At a jobs fair she met our talent development manager, Saima Yaqub, and the rest, as they say, is history.
As well as attending college one day a week, Abba follows a schedule of repair work at our properties accompanied by her mentor, multi-trade operative Malcolm Pearson.
“It’s really varied and covers all aspects of repairs such as changing a lock on a door, replacing guttering, refitting a bath or toilet and putting in a new pane of glass. The only thing I don’t do is electrical work as you need additional qualifications.”
Abba has nothing but praise for the apprenticeship programme, although she admits she is looking forward to completing her first year and almost doubling her pay.
“Midland Heart as a company is brilliant and I feel supported professionally and personally. There’s always someone to talk to if I have any worries. It’s been a struggle financially but you have to take the rough with the smooth; at the end of this I will have a career.
“And I love the training on the job. You can’t fault getting hands on experience; that beats learning out of a text book every time.”