Women account for only 2 per cent of the UK's construction workforce and when you take into account that overall, twice as many men as women start a business, it becomes evident that, for women, the journey towards setting up their own business in a manual trade may seem fraught with obstacles.

The bank wants to help change this, by equipping more women with the skills and knowledge they need to become self-employed. RBS Inspiring Women in Enterprise, part of the broader Inspiring Enterprise programme, was launched in 2012 to tackle this issue head on. Recently, it’s been helping to change the face of manual trades by supporting more women to set up their own businesses in these areas.

Women and Manual Trades (WAMT) are one of the not-for-profit organisations which secured funding through the programme.

“WAMT was formed 40 years ago by tradeswomen who wanted to promote working in the tools and construction industry as a positive option for women,” says Hannah Carty, Events Coordinator, Women and Manual Trades.

“Over the years we’ve run many different funded and commissioned projects – from training to campaigning and policy work, which influences gender equality within construction. We offer advice, information, and support to women working, training or wanting to train in a trade.”

The London-based organisation is using the RBS funding to run the Building Women’s Futures programme, which supports women across Greater London by creating a community of tradeswomen who are struggling with the challenge of self-employment.

 “As far as we know, it’s the only business start-up project out there that’s specifically for tradeswomen working in all specialisms – electricians, plumbers, carpenters, painter-decorators etc. It goes further than putting women into placements within the industry – allowing them to take control by setting up their own businesses in a way that we hope will last.”

Supporting local organisations to address the needs they themselves have identified in their local areas is a key part of the bank’s community involvement.

Inspiring Enterprise completed £3m of grant funding in December 2014.  This 3 year programme resulted in over 33,500 young people and women being inspired and enabled to explore and unlock their enterprise potential, develop their skills and start up 1,141 new businesses.

In May our new Skills & Opportunities Fund was launched, committing £2.5m per year to not for profit organisations, charities and schools across the UK and Ireland.  The funded projects must support disadvantaged communities, helping people to learn new skills, get into work, or start up their own business. We believe that by helping others to help themselves, we can build stronger communities and we can all grow.  The public vote for the current round opens 15th June, a further round of funding will open in September.  To learn more visit: www.rbs.com/skillsandopportunitiesfund    

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