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Female apprentices ‘painting the glass ceiling’ with bespoke decorating firm

(Centre) Hayley Greaves, Stephen Nicholson and Lucy McCrindle with the team from S Nicholson & Sons

S. Nicholson and Sons, a bespoke decorating firm based in Bishop Auckland, is encouraging more females to consider pursuing a career in the painting and decorating industry through apprenticeships.

The firm is one of the biggest apprenticeship providers in the town, and is looking to support more women interested in working in what is considered to be a male-dominated field.

Former fine art student, Hayley Greaves, 24, is completing her three-year apprenticeship in March 2020 and will begin her full-time role within the firm on successful completion of the apprenticeship.

She has been working alongside Lucy McCrindle as the firm’s first female apprentices. Hayley and Lucy have been working on a range of impressive projects in locations including Durham-based, Redworth Hall and the Netherwood Hotel in Grange-over-Sands.

Hayley joined S. Nicholson and Sons with a degree in interior design and textiles from the University of Huddersfield and a diploma in fine art from Queen Elizabeth college in Darlington.

Hayley said: “Since I was a little girl, I have always been a creative person and wanted to express myself in interior design, so I wanted to explore the painting and decorating industry. I was so excited and grateful Stephen rang me just an hour after I had applied for the apprenticeship.

“My family and I used to joke about me being a painter and decorator as it’s commonly associated with being a male profession. I think the industry is becoming increasingly more diverse, customers sometimes get a shock when they open the door to us as they usually expect a man.

“I think it’s a great profession for women to express their creativity. All the men we work with have always been so supportive – especially Stephen. The apprenticeship is the best thing I have ever done, and I am excited to progress within the firm as I can’t see myself anywhere else.”

Lucy, 18, completed her level one and two painting and decorating whilst working for her father, who is a builder. She has been learning new skills and techniques every day and will complete her apprenticeship in March 2022.

Lucy said: “Everyone here has been so supportive, and I would not want to work anywhere else. It is great to see more trade businesses taking on more females as it is becoming more popular amongst females.

“I am always interested by the different methods used. It’s like a science and I am excited to gain more experience and try new techniques. We all love to work with Stephen, as he is a very supportive boss who makes everyone feel appreciated and the projects we work on in manor houses and castles are incredible.

“Seeing the satisfaction on the customer’s face once we complete a job is definitely the highlight, seeing the finished product is always so exciting, but it takes patience, attention to detail and creativity to get there.”

Stephen Nicholson, managing director of S Nicholson and Sons, said: “I am thrilled that the industry is diversifying, and more females are entering the painting and decorating professions.

“I could not be prouder of Hayley and Lucy’s individual development, they are both fast learners, ambitious, creative and hard-working apprentices with endless potential.”