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Jerry Whiteley: InstallerSPOTLIGHT Series

The InstallerSHOW Spotlight Series: Jerry Whiteley
In association with Grundfos

Over the coming weeks, our host Jess Shanahan will be profiling influential figures in the industry and hearing their thoughts on the challenges and opportunities they have faced in their careers. Watch or listen to the full interviews below.

In the latest of our InstallerSPOTLIGHT series, highlighting the experience of women in the industry, we look at the role of men as allies, with Jerry Whiteley, technical manager of CIPHE.

Jerry Whiteley will be well known to many, either in his role as CIPHE Technical Manager or as Head Judge of the HIP skills competitions.

Jerry has reason to believe in the value of apprenticeships, having joined the industry himself at the age of 16. The apprenticeship was five years long in those days and the experience with his employer was so good that he stayed with the company for another eight years, rising through the ranks to the point where he was a foreman running sites by the time he was 21.

He then went on to run his own business for more than a decade, taking on his own apprentices in the process. But it was at this point that he started his long association with teaching and learning: “I loved it,” he says. “I found a job where I could give something back. And that led to something of a fast track into management roles in education, as head of faculty as they used to call it.”

When the job of technical manager at CIPHE came up, Jerry jumped at the chance to apply his teaching skills and to give something back to the industry: “It has been good to share knowledge, and to support people in the industry with all the things I’ve learned over the years.”

Jerry believes that the changing nature of plumbing and heating can only improve the prospects for women entering the industry now: “We’re so desperately short of people to come to the industry – especially with the technology changing so rapidly now – and we are all leading towards the low carbon agenda. Gone are the days when we had to struggle to fit boilers made of cast iron to the wall. There are so many pathways into the industry – it isn’t just about being on the tools, that’s a misnomer.”

He is also in no doubt about the calibre of the women who have come into the industry in recent years: “My experiences of seeing the women coming in through skills competitions is they’re often 10 times better than the blokes! We have just been judging a women’s skills competition and the standard of work is phenomenal. So it’s not really about gender, it’s about ‘can you do it?’. It’s as simple as that. Step up, prove your worth, and you’ll do very well.”

Jerry advises that the starting point for anyone looking to join the industry is to do some research around what sort of careers might be available – whether that is online, or from organisations such as the CIPHE.

A particularly fruitful area of focus, he suggests, could be around the net zero journey: “I would strongly recommend anybody to participate in [net zero] because that’s growth, growth, growth. The gas industry has around 120,000 people in it, whereas in the net zero industry, it’s about 5,000 people. You can see which one has got the most opportunity for growth. I keep saying this to people when I meet them. ‘Get involved. Learn about the net zero agenda.’”

Jerry is also clear on what companies will be looking for initially in an apprentice: “What they want to see mostly is enthusiasm and passion for what you want to do – the rest of it, you’ll learn on the job.”

Having judged a number of competitions over the years, Jerry believes these are another great way for women to prove themselves: “It is not just showcasing skills but demonstrating attitudes and behaviours too – so it’s a great platform. I’ll give you a good example: I was judging at Lewisham College for a female skills competition recently. There were six or seven girls there and the employer that was one of the main organisers offered them all a job – everyone was offered a job there and then! So the opportunities are there. If you are in the right place at the right time, you can use a competition as a platform.”

There is no better example of this, he says, than Sophie Maguire, the fourth-year apprentice who we interviewed in this slot last week. She has used the competitions to demonstrate both her skills and her attitude to the job: “She’s just a natural with the right attitude and behaviour, and she demonstrates that as she goes about her work. And she does superb work.”

And away from the tools, Jerry notes that many women have proved themselves as great business owners too:

“There are many good women out there running businesses today with lots of people working underneath them and doing very, very well. It’s a good industry to get involved with it because it’s a sustainable career. It’s not just a job… once you get into it after a couple of years in the industry, you’ll have a job for life.”

It’s clear that Jerry’s career experience has made him a real enthusiast for the industry: “I think it’s been a fantastic journey. It served me well all my life. I’ve made a good living out of it, and I can honestly say, I’ve never had a day of work forced upon me. I’d recommend it to anybody to come in and do it!”

Jerry Whiteley will be appearing alongside other Spotlight panellists in a special discussion at InstallerSHOW on Thursday 27th in the Climate Solutions Theatre. Register for your free ticket to InstallerSHOW, including the Spotlight panel discussion on day 3 HERE

 

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