Skills for Growth Work and Skills

‘Break the Bias’ one industry at a time

Greater Manchester is being urged to #BreakTheBias this International Women’s Day through skills development by two women who are making waves in male dominated fields.

Thanks to Greater Manchester Combined Authority’s three-year Skills for Growth programme funded through the European Social Fund, Lauren Madden and Saskia Ratcliffe were able to access fully-funded training, which gave them the confidence to explore new fields.

The theme for this year’s International Women’s Day is #BreakTheBias and both women are encouraging others to instigate change by exploring development opportunities to widen their prospects, keep up-to-date with new trends and find their passions.

Lauren, 31, works in manufacturing as a senior development technologist. Her role involves infusing flavours to create bespoke recipes for marinades and sauces, which are then sold to large and small retailers across the country.

With the Covid-19 pandemic meaning that businesses need to adapt and improve their digital presence, Lauren’s employer encouraged her to explore digital marketing. As a result, Lauren has now enrolled onto a fully-funded Level 3 Digital Marketer apprenticeship with UK Skills Academy.

Lauren said: “Manufacturing and digital are two industries typically dominated by men but I don’t think that should stop any woman who is excited about finding out more.

“Thanks to the Skills for Growth programme, I’ve accessed training that will help me break the bias in both industries, normalising women going for exactly what they want.”

Saskia Ratcliff, 44, was a senior manager at a housing organisation for almost two-decades before leaving to support the city-region’s net-zero efforts.

She enrolled onto a fully-funded Level 5 Diploma in Retrofit Coordination and Risk Management with The Retrofit Academy as part of North West Skills Academy’s training contract and completed the course flexibly alongside full-time employment and personal commitments. 

Saskia said: “You can’t always play it safe. I had reached a point where I thought - I either stay in housing until I retire, or I take the plunge while I still can.

“It was a big decision but also the right one. It’s a really good time to get involved with an emerging industry that is only going to grow in importance.

“It would be great to see more women coming through too and I think that will happen as women in retrofit and construction become more visible.”

Retrofit is the fitting of new systems designed for high-energy efficiency and low-energy consumption to buildings, which were previously built without them.

It’s an industry with growing importance as Greater Manchester looks to achieve carbon neutrality by 2038.

Saskia added: “I think there’s a misconception about what retrofit actually is, which can put some people off but there are a lot of inspiring, qualified and experienced women working in the field and I’m keen to share my journey so others can see what opportunities are available.”

Skills for Growth has been designed following robust engagement with Greater Manchester businesses.

The programme aims to plug skills gaps that employers have continuously said that they are struggling to fill, while giving priority groups (including women in employment, low paid and the ageing population) access to fully-funded opportunities that can develop existing skills or teach them new ones that can then be used for progression or to move into a different field.

Manchester City Council’s first female leader and Greater Manchester’s lead for Education Skills, Work, Apprenticeships and Digital, Councillor Bev Craig, said: “Lauren and Saskia are brilliant examples of how taking ownership of our professional development can lead to great things.

“Striving for diverse and equal workplaces can only lead to innovation and the Skills for Growth programme is achieving this through truly employer-led intelligence and focusing skills development on plugging the gaps businesses themselves have identified. 

“In Greater Manchester, we’re committed to empowering people and developing local talent to give residents the confidence and skills they need to further their careers, while ensuring local businesses have access to the best resources.”

Find out more about the Skills for Growth programme.


Article Published: 07/03/2022 12:24 PM