Akpome Francis swapped turn-downs for screwdrivers and now encourages other women to study for apprenticeships to boost their career prospects.
“As the main provider for my family and a busy mum of two, I wasn’t sure how an apprenticeship would fit into my life.”
Nigeria-born Mrs Francis emigrated to the UK in 2003 and lives with husband Curtis.
The couple have two children 15-year-old Tega and Efe, 17.
She has worked at the Waldorf Hilton on Aldwych for 20 years and was recently promoted to a lead maintenance role ensuring health and safety compliance.
In 2018, Mrs Francis was encouraged by her boss to apply for a place on a facilities management level 3 apprenticeship scheme to develop skills in project and budget management.
Speaking in National Apprenticeship Week, she says completing her studies while still earning money to support her family had been hard.
Mrs Francis added: “Thankfully, Hilton was supportive throughout the process and reassured me that I could go at my own pace. They even allowed me to take time out of work.
“Although managing work, studying and family life has been challenging at times, the support of my team helped me reach the finish line.
“During busy times, I was always able to speak with my manager to reassess goals and deadlines, and to avoid feeling overwhelmed when prioritising my workload.”
Data from Lifetime Training, Hilton’s apprenticeship partner, shows the hotel group currently employs 43 per cent more apprentices than others in London. Among ethnic minorities, it is 14 per cent higher.
But Mrs Francis, who is the only female in her engineering team, joked: “Hopefully not for long!
“I want to inspire other women - particularly those from an ethnic minority background - to consider a career in engineering and be a role model for others.
“Other Londoners should take the leap of faith.
“Despite my initial reservations, an apprenticeship has rewarded me with new skills and an unexpected career move.
“I would also say look for a supportive employer to guide you through this journey.
“One that not only encourages your skill development, but also respects your existing responsibilities in and outside the workplace.”