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It's a filthy job, but these girls are happy to do it!

By Western Morning News  |  Posted: October 11, 2013

  • Left: Deryn and Abi in more feminine clothing

  • Abi Hayward, 22, left, and Deryn Spencer, 17, are the first female apprentices at the South West Water sewage system in Launceston

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Two young women have become the first females in Britain to start an apprenticeship – in sewage.

Abi Hayward, 22, and Deryn Spencer, 17, will spend two years visiting sewerage works as they train to be waste water workers.

The pair's hands-on job will involve anything from hand-raking raw sewage to taking samples for testing and using rods to clear blockages.

Abi and Deryn started work on Tuesday after beating more than 500 candidates to become South West Water's first ever female water operations apprentices.

They will work on sewage sites and treatment plants across Devon and Cornwall during the two year apprenticeship.

Abi said: "I've always wanted to do something outdoorsy and have always had an interest in the environment, so this job is ideal as it allows me to combine the two.

"I'm not fazed by the fact that I'm going to be surrounded by sewage during the next few years. A lot of the work we do is very dirty and most people would probably presume that females wouldn't want to do it, but it's great.

"I'm loving it so far and really like the fact that it's so hands on – it's definitely not a nine to five office job."

She added: "The men we work with don't seem too bothered by us either and have been pretty supportive."

Abi, an illustrations graduate from Lanhydrock, Cornwall, will be working in Waste Water Services in Bodmin, Cornwall, during her time at the company. She said: "I studied for a degree in illustration at Plymouth University, but realised soon after beginning the course that I wanted to do something that's as far away from office work as possible.

"This is very practical, which I love, and I'm really looking forward to getting stuck in."

The pair wear yellow fluorescent jackets and hard hats on site, alongside 44 other male apprentices who joined South West Water last month.

Deryn, of Ottery St Mary, said: "I was studying for my A-levels and got half way through and realised I wanted to do something completely different, so when I got the job I was really pleased.

"People are quite shocked when I tell them what I do as it is quite different, but I love it."

The trainees work within its Drinking Water and Waste Water Services, along with Operation Support Services.

The apprentices each have a nominated mentor whilst studying for a level three qualification from a training provider.

There are 46 apprentices on the two-year course at South West Water who make up around 4% of its total workforce.

South West Water's operations director, Dr Stephen Bird, said: "We have had an exceptional response with over 580 applications from young people across the region.

"We are also pleased to welcome our first female apprentices to the programme and hope their appointment will encourage other young women to pursue a practical career in the water industry."

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