Girl Power to Lift

In honour of the International Women's Day, we spoke to two strong women: 20-year-old Astrid Drachmann and 22-year-old Emma Flensborg Hansen, who both serve their apprenticeship as sheet metal workers in the production facilities at HMF. Sometimes, the girls must deal with the outside world's lack of understanding of their profession, fortunately, they also experience great respect for their choice of education - because as Emma says: "I'm really just doing what I like to do."

A man's world from a woman's perspective

Being a woman in a male-dominated industry is something special, Astrid and Emma agree. It takes a woman to choose metal worker as profession and have the courage to stand up for yourself. Fortunately, both girls are quite good at this. 

Emma describes her workplace as an environment where the rhetoric is direct, and the tone may be blunt - and maybe this is what stereotypically attracts more men than women. But for Emma, this informal tone has a positive effect. She finds both security and freedom in the fact that you don't have to mince your words. However, she sometimes gets treated with more consideration. Not in a positive discrimination kind of way, but simply in a we're-being-just-a-little-more-respectful-towards-you kind of way, and she appreciates that. 

"The shop-floor humour may get rough sometimes," says Emma with a wry smile. 

Apart from the extra consideration regarding the jokes, Emma and Astrid feel totally included and that they are treated equally with their colleagues. Although they are outnumbered in terms of gender, this is not always a disadvantage; the girls also experience a positive response in the workplace for their personalities and for being female. In fact, there’s a broad consensus at the factory that the feminine energy boosts the working environment and influences the dynamics positively. 

"Of course, being a woman in the industry is special – I can’t deny that”, says Astrid with a smile.

If you ask the young women, they think it's a shame that there aren't more women in their industry. Both Astrid and Emma experience it as filled with prejudices to be a woman in a male profession and in the vocational education programmes in general. This is something the girls sometimes notice in the way the world around them reacts to their choice of education. In the beginning, Astrid's dad, for example, didn't quite see the point of his daughter training to become a sheet metal worker. But over time, Astrid's decision has grown on him, and today he’s very proud:

"He tells as many people as possible that his daughter is training as a metal worker," Astrid says with enthusiasm.

More students in vocational training programmes - including women!

Attracting more women to vocational education is not the only challenge. Emma and Astrid agree that Danish society in general needs to change the way it talks about vocational education and training. They see how Danish vocational education programmes are not put on an equal footing with Danish upper secondary education (the two paths you can choose between, when leaving primary school in Denmark, ed.) - and the women are a bit frustrated by this. They believe that attracting more women and young people in general, is possible if you did more to spread knowledge about what vocational education programmes have to offer. And that's the mission Astrid has taken on as the Power-woman she is: 

Once a year, Astrid gives a talk to young people at a boarding school for lower secondary students about her choice of education. She wants to share her knowledge about training as a craftswoman by talking about her apprenticeship at HMF. In doing so, she emphasises the attractive aspects of the profession to broaden the horizons of the students and inspire others to pursue the same path. That's why she also spends a lot of time talking about the rights as an apprentice and future opportunities.

Astrid thinks it's important to represent her field to young people who will soon be making these kinds of decisions about education and career choices. She hopes to attract more students to vocational education and training programmes in general, but of course especially women. She likes the idea of creating an insight into a male-dominated world from her own female perspective.

If you ask Emma, she believes that Astrid's talks have a great effect on the students. She herself would have found it inspiring if a female apprentice had represented vocational education at her primary school. 

"You need role models and someone to look up to," says Emma.

But it's not just the students who benefit from Astrid's work spreading the word about the cool vocational programmes. Astrid benefits herself. She enjoys being able to tell her story and hopefully spark some new thoughts in the recipients. As earlier mentioned, Astrid has often experienced being met with prejudices because of her profession. Therefore, she would like to speak out and hopefully break down some of the negative perceptions that abound around vocational education.  

"There should be an equal view of everyone who gets up every day and goes to work. As long as you're happy, that's the most important thing," says Astrid. 

Even though there are statistically more men in the trades, women shouldn't be discouraged. The Danish vocational schools have a good and established support system where you are always welcome to talk about your process and therefore never feel alone.

Everyday life as an apprentice at HMF is not bad at all!

Emma and Astrid's working day starts very early in the morning when they check in at 5 a.m. and get started on their tasks. Even though they are still apprentices, there’s a lot of work and responsibility to fulfil, when welding parts for HMF’s truck-mounted cranes. Fortunately, they both thrive on it. 

Astrid, who has been an apprentice at HMF since the summer of 2021, has established particularly good relationships. Her own theory is that she’s good at learning names and therefore knows almost everyone. But it might also have something to do with her openness and friendliness. 

"Here I have almost 400 people I can talk to," says Astrid smiling. 

She was only 17 when she started her apprenticeship and has therefore, in her own words, been 'brought up at HMF'. Astrid describes the workplace as a valuable addition to her life - like a close-knit family that is there for each other. Here, she has learnt to go to work, read pay checks and, not least, that it's okay to fail. She says that she has never been scolded for doing something wrong - only if she has jeopardized her own safety. This creates a sense of security and peace to learn. 

There’s also a good social environment among the apprentices. The young people are there for each other and leave room for fun, jokes and seriousness - and that creates value in everyday life for both Astrid and Emma.

"HMF is a great workplace!" says Astrid.  

Read more about the everyday life of an apprentice here

Would you like to become an apprentice at HMF?  Learn more here