We have Lucy Stendall to thank for this amazing Jobs for the Girls post, as Kathleen sent this in after Lucy did a shout out on twitter. Kathleen’s story is one of my favourite ones yet. I love how Kathleen found this job, almost by accident, before realising that she actually loved it. I love how she thrived in what is so typically a male environment. And I love how brilliantly and inspiringly she writes about it.
I am now a 36 year old single mum of three, who is presently out of work and studying part-time for a BA Hons in Graphic Design and Illustration. A few years ago however, I was a grease monkey.
Life was a little vexed at school and having toyed with becoming a Forensic Pathologist as a small child, a Farrier (they who put shoes onto horses feet) when I was a teenager, I eventually did pretty badly at some A-Levels and decided to take up an apprenticeship as a lorry mechanic. Having left sixth form, I carried on in my Saturday/holiday job that I had held in a local swanky Deli since I was 12. When I turned 19, I was being goaded into leaving by my boss as she didn’t want me wasting my time at her shop, when I should have been doing a worthwhile degree course somewhere. I had decided against Uni at this point, not wanting to carry on in full-time education, or leave home.
I saw an advert in the local free newspaper, placed by a nearby haulage firm seeking two apprentices within their engineering department. I applied, was selected for interview and thought I had nailed it. I then got the standard letter telling me I hadn’t. For some reason, I became really determined that I would like to do this job and so when my careers officer called me up to find out what was going on with my working life later that month, I explained what had happened and my new found determination to become a mechanic.
I was passed on to a man who looked after this sort of thing within their department and he suggested I go to another haulage firm around the corner from the one who had rejected me as he already had a boy doing his apprenticeship there, and he thought they would likely take me on. I pulled a face at this as I wasn’t sure how to pitch myself to a prospective employer who wasn’t even advertising for someone. Never the less, the chap (sorry, can’t remember his name) encouraged me and said he would prime them up and get me an appointment. I rocked up in my smartest jeans and checked shirt, looking every bit like a lesbian lumber jack who had got lost on their way to Deliverance country and armed with my CV and exam certificates, knocked on the door. A successful Q and A session with the boss then lead me to the garage for a chat with the head mechanic, a quick tour and a ‘You can start Monday’… Bewildered, I drove off in my mother’s Volvo 240 Estate car/tank wondering wistfully how I would look in overalls.
To cut a long story relatively short, I spent the next few years happy as the proverbial pig in poop, getting up to my neck in grease and engine parts. I got my B-TEC National certificate in Engineering (Motor Vehicle) and my Modern Apprenticeship in Engineering (HGV/Diesel). I was subjected to a lot of banter, light hearted abuse and the fun of working in one of the least PC environments a girl could wish for. No I’m not precious about being called ‘Treacle’ or “Peaches’ or being whistled at or yelled at by blokes who think I look very good covered in filth and wearing overalls. I never minded the jaw dropped expressions of male lorry drivers when I used to land by the side of the road or at a truck stop to repair a broken down truck or to replace a “Super Single’ wheel on their trailer. I couldn’t give a hoot that they always thought they should help me and I always told them off for trying. I was one of the boys and I loved it. I had skills man!
I eventually drove a recovery lorry for a while and attended accidents and breakdowns on behalf of the Police and major breakdown companies, before I left to drive a desk instead. As I say, I’m now stuck behind an iMac or a drawing board, running around after my kids, riding a motorbike or my horse or even sleeping (the holy grail and stuff of dreams).
We girls can do it all. Never let anyone tell you we can’t.
(36yrs and 5 months)