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Girl power: Crane operator, Houses of Parliament librarian and entrepreneur inspire Ilford pupils

PUBLISHED: 14:16 08 March 2017 | UPDATED: 16:05 08 March 2017

Katie, a crane operator, spoke to pupils at Ursuline Academy about careers in construction. Picture Ursuline Academy.

Katie, a crane operator, spoke to pupils at Ursuline Academy about careers in construction. Picture Ursuline Academy.

Ursuline Academy.

An opera singer, a crane driver and a make-up artist walk into a room.

Pupils were excited to hear about diffrent career options. Picture Ursuline Academy.Pupils were excited to hear about diffrent career options. Picture Ursuline Academy.

No it is not the start of a dubious pub joke but a special event organised at the Ursuline Academy to give their girls “insight” into the working world.

The pupils, who are just about to pick their GCSEs, were treated to talks by women working in fields as diverse as the Houses of Parliament to pharmacy.

Kate Keogh, head of Year 9, organised the event at Morland Road, Ilford and said it was important to give the pupils first hand information.

“I could stand up and talk to them about careers but it is much better to hear from someone who has experienced it,” she said. The Recorder caught up with Katie Kelleher, a crane operator, who learnt her trade as a Crossrail apprentice.

Female working opprtunities being discussed with students at the Ursaline Academy. Kate Kelleher. Picture Ken MearsFemale working opprtunities being discussed with students at the Ursaline Academy. Kate Kelleher. Picture Ken Mears

“It has taken me a long, long time to find out what I wanted to do,” she said.

“I wasn’t told at school that I could be a plumber or a brick layer – that was given as an option to boys.”

After dropping out of university, Katie worked a range of jobs including in retail and magazines sales but said she “wasn’t built for it”.

She put out her CV and was surprised when she got a call asking if she would like to interview for a construction apprenticeship. She thought it was a “bit weird” but decided to give it a go.

Female working opprtunities being discussed with students at the Ursaline Academy. Picture Ken MearsFemale working opprtunities being discussed with students at the Ursaline Academy. Picture Ken Mears

“I never thought I would be a crane operator,” she added.

“It was quite daunting walking through the yard at first as all the men stared at me, put I just put my head down and got on with the job and they got used to it”

“I wanted to be there because I was the best person for the job, not because I was the token woman.”

Katie said the best thing about the apprenticeship was that it was so supportive.

“They equip you with the skills you need,” she said.

“It is never too late to change what you are doing – life it too short.

“It’s bloody hard work with long days but it’s the best decision I ever made, I laugh every day.”

The pupils discovered there were lots of apprenticeship open to them including architecture and jewellery making.

They also learned about starting up your own business and pathways that need a degree.

Alamah Grant, 13, enjoyed listening to a midwife talk about her experiences and said the day “opened up the world” to her.

Imaah Faisal, 14, who wants to work abroad and be an ambassador added: “I learnt that grades aren’t everything.

“We listened to a business owner who said they look for personality to shine through and activities on CVs as well as experience.”

Rose Russell, a design and technology teacher at Ursuline Academy said the day helped to inspire pupils and open them up to careers that hadn’t previously through about.

“We have had a lot more girls taking up STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths) subjects,” she said.

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