NAC Electrics’ Susan Curatolo says there are no barriers to being a woman electrician, though she has only come across two other females in the industry.
I left school to work with horses, and had always wanted to be a riding instructor. I got as far as my British Horse Society Stage 1, but needed something that paid a bit better, so I ended up working in quarries, on the weighbridges for companies like Tinto Sand & Gravel, Tilcon Ltd and then Tarmac.
Then I worked in the careers office for South Lanarkshire Council and left to go travelling to Israel where I lived on a Kibbutz for a year. On my return, in 1998, I trained as an electrician, and found my calling at the late age of 23. I’ve been an electrician with NAC ever since, but I never lost my love of horses.
Highlight the biggest projects you have been involved in
I worked on the office refurbishment for McLellands Cheese Factory. I also worked on the 1999 new installation for Norfolkline refrigerated transport, Larkhall where we installed chills and offices. Later, when new freezers were required, I returned to Larkhall and then again in 2015 to expanded the refrigerated areas and office building.
I was the first electrician on site installing temporary lighting for the Edinburgh International Climbing Arena in Ratho, which is Europe’s largest indoor climbing arena, and built in a disused quarry. I then returned to install all the electrics for the place. That was one of the physically biggest projects I ever worked on. I have also done electrical work for numerous new build housing projects.
Where would you like to be in future?
I would like to go through my training to become an Approved Electrician in the future. It’s good to know that I haven’t got any restrictions on the training. There aren’t any barriers to being a woman electrician; I just need to find the time and money to sit the next trade test.
What are your thoughts on your sector in terms of the number of females working in general and in higher positions?
I have only come across two other females in the industry. One was an electrician and the other an Electrical Engineer. It would be nice to see more females going into the industry. I am only five foot three and small-built but can give anyone a run for their money, work wise. There aren’t many things I can’t do and those that are tricky I will give a very good try.
I have been in the industry for nearly 20 years now and I love my job. I love being able to fix things and do a neat, tidy and safe job. Total job satisfaction.
Could more be done to encourage women into construction?
I must say that in my 20 years I have only come across one man who was sexist which was very disappointing as it wasn’t that long ago. Generally, I have been shown nothing but respect on the building sites I have worked on. Usually, I’ve been the person that they all come to when they need a fresh perspective on a problem, be it electrical or not.
The thing I love about this job is you are learning all the time. There’s no such thing as serving your time and knowing it all. Every day there are new things to learn. It is hard work so I like to keep myself fit and strong, since it makes it much easier and when you get used to it, it’s just like any other job.
I think we need to get female electrician to go out to Primary and Secondary Schools and speak to the pupils, to show girls that they can do the job just as well as the boys. Probably better as us women are known to be neat, tidy and organised! There are also good opportunities for older females to go into the industry, as I did. I didn’t start training until I was 23 years old, and did the adult training course via home learning with training on the job. This worked wonders, because I was learning everyday and putting all the written theory into practice.
I also had six great electricians to learn from, each of whom had their own ways of doing things. I learnt as much as I could from them all; then developed my own unique way of doing things.
What has your NAC Electrics done to facilitate this?
The electrical industry has an imbalance between men and women at all levels. Most sites I’ve been on, I’ve been the only woman with tools in her hand, and I’d want to see more companies hire more women, but if women don’t apply and don’t realise that a career in construction is available for them as well, then the companies can’t hire them. I’d love to see women electricians at every careers day at every school in the country, though.
Catch up with the rest of Scottish Construction Now’s International Women’s Day feature here.