“We are reluctant to think that we can do the job like the boys, but we can give this sector a twist”

Noelia Real left her job as an engineer to fulfill her dreams. Now she is training through a Professional Certificate given by Fundación Laboral in Cantabria, to have enough practical knowledge and to work as a teacher in the branch of electricity.

A year ago, Noelia was an electrical and energy efficiency engineer. However, in January she decided to change her life: she quit her job and decided to recycle herself. She met Fundación Laboral and after doing an internship as a teacher in one of the courses of the entity, Noelia has launched herself to train through the Professional Certificate of “Assembly and Maintenance of Low Voltage Electrical Installations”, in the Training Centre of Revilla de Camargo, in Cantabria. When she finishes, Noelia will already have the necessary practical knowledge to be able to work as a teacher. She already knows the theory, and has clear ideas.

QUESTION: What did you do before starting your training at Fundación Laboral?

ANSWER: I worked as an engineer for 15 years, from 2004 to January this year. First I worked in the field of topography until I changed to the subject of electricity and energy efficiency due to the crisis. In January, although I had the opportunity to work, I decided to turn my working life around and stop working. At that time of my life I could afford it and it was something I had always wanted to do.

Q.- How did you find out about Fundación Laboral Certificate?

A.- After leaving my job I started a Teaching Certificate for Training. It was my teacher who found me the internship at the Fundación, because there were courses here related to subjects I had worked on, such as energy efficiency, so I did the internship in the Certificate of Renewable Energies.

Q.- What was your experience as a teacher at Fundación Laboral?

A.- I did ten days of practice, about 40 hours. I gave a few classes, helped the teacher to correct, and listened and learned what I could from him, which is the important thing about practice. In the last class, the teacher told me that I was doing well, that I was in control. I don’t panic when I meet the students. I’m really enjoying this and I’m going to try. I will always have time to go back to what I was doing before.

Q.- What plans do you have for when you finish your training?

A.- Once I finish my studies I could teach part of this Certificate, since there is a lack of teachers in this field. Right now I could teach the theory but not the practice. I haven’t done assembly, so I don’t think I am qualified. I decided to take the Certificate and learn, not only how to handle the electrical part, but also to learn how to teach. I am looking at the course from two points of views: the practical electrical part, where I am learning a lot, and the way it is taught.

When I tell people that I left my job in January, I tell them that I didn’t want to work, that this is what I wanted to do. And people tell me that I’m not crazy, that I have clear ideas. They encourage me to go ahead. And that’s what we have to do: have clear ideas, and believe it. We girls have to believe in it to in order to get it. If we don’t believe it, it’s going to be hard.

Q.- Working as an engineer, did you have direct contact with the work on site?

A.- When I was an engineer, I audited, I had to see the installations, since I was in charge of measuring and checking. What I am seeing in the course now is how that installation is done. Before, I supervised the installations already made and I made measurements on them. Now I am learning to assemble those same installations.

Q.- During your time as an engineer, did you meet other girls?

A.- Even boys dominate the sector, in terms of energy efficiency, there are girls in the offices, less than boys, but well, in all the companies I have been in I have coincided with girls. Not so much in topography, but in the energy efficiency part, yes.

Q.- How was your first day on the course?

A.- My first day was as normal as if I had gone to an energy efficiency talk, with people of all ages. I became so integrated that, although everyone knew each other from a previous certificate, we shared doubts and exercises from the first minute. I didn’t feel excluded by my classmates at any time.

Q.- Do you have a good relationship with your classmates? Are there more girls on the course?

A.- I am very happy. I am the only girl but from the beginning I have been welcomed. I have all kinds of classmates, from young people to quite old people and I have never had any problem for being a girl. To the contrary, they treat me as an equal, and I also behave as an equal.

Q.- What do you find more interesting out of what you are seeing in the course?

A.- What I like most is to understand how things work, not to do things for the sake of doing them. Now I understand how they are done, because it is good for me to understand and learn. If you don’t understand something and in a month I ask you to do it, you won’t know how to do it. This course is helping me to understand how we get the installation to work. And that’s what I love about this course.

Q.- And as a future teacher?

A.- I have had three teachers and they were very different. The one I like the most is the one I have now because he is teaching what this is, what it is for and how things are done, and that is what I need. In this course I learn electricity, but also what should be done in teaching and what should not be done. When I am a teacher, my students will have to know what and how to do things in order to know how to function. This is not about taking a test and passing, this has a lot of practice. That’s what’s so great about these certificates, and I encourage all the girls to try it, to go and learn, and then to make a decision about whether they want to continue in this field or not.

Q.- Throughout this Certificate you will also do an internship in companies in the sector…

A.- I have already thought where I am going to do it. I ask my teacher and he is fine with it. It’s a company I know. After working as an engineer for so long, I had relations with electrical companies. One of them told me that there is no problem, and I will join them. You know how girls sometimes have trouble finding internships. Although I have never been excluded from my jobs, I think the labour market is still a bit macho. and we’ll have to fight it.

Q.- Why do you think there are no more girls encouraged to do this type of course?

A.- I don’t think they don’t dare, I think that we girls still think that society excludes us for this kind of jobs. When we think that, we make ourselves believe that they are going to choose a boy over us. We resist thinking that we are just one more and that we can do the job just like them. I think that, in terms of electricity, we are even more meticulous, and that we can give a twist to this sector. In my opinion, we exclude ourselves by thinking that others do not want us.

I think if companies started getting more CVs from girls, they would value giving them the opportunity. But when they don’t get them, they don’t choose us. Changing all this is not something you can do in a short time. We must fight and say “we are here, we can do it”.

Q.- How do you think the sector will evolve in the coming years?

A.- I would like there to see more girls, I would love it, but I find it hard to believe because, for example, I am in a certificate where, out of eleven people, I am the only girl. That’s why I find it difficult to see girls on the facilities, and I think it’s going to be hard. Do we have to fight? Absolutely, just as we’ve got other rights, I think we can get this, and I’d love to, but I don’t see it in the short term, but in the long term.

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