‘It shouldn’t be one woman every 15 years’ – fire and security engineer speaks on representation in the industry

Having a fire in her belly from a young age, Emma Francioli was determined to make a career for herself in engineering.

From carrying out safety checks in the museums and art galleries of major cities, to installing smoke detectors in donkey stables, Emma’s role in fire and security has been everything she wanted and more, and now trains engineers in the profession.

With more than 20 years in the industry under her belt, the Jackson Fire and Security employee is responsible for supplementing the knowledge of 10 UK-wide branch directors, as well as travelling out to sites to assist teams when needed.

The national training and support manager enjoys the blend of providing insight on the latest product developments and solutions, whilst retaining the practical elements of the role, and wants more women to consider it as a viable career option.

Based in Jackson’s Mold offices, she said: “People have always been surprised to see me out in the van, and it wasn’t until I was 15 years in that I met another female site engineer. It shouldn’t have taken that long!

“Being underrepresented, I felt that I needed to prove my worth and why I deserved to be there. I’ve received a fair few negative comments about belonging on site.

“But there’s also a lot of curiosity surrounding my job, where people will come up to me during site visits to say they’re going to tell their daughters about me, so you take the good with the bad.”

In 2021, it was found that only 16 per cent of fire safety and security employees in England are women, and Emma attributed her success in the sector to her resilience.

She added: “I grew up around mechanics and joiners, and my dad often involved me in DIY projects around the house, so I knew from a young age that I wanted to do something where I could fix things.

“I distinctly remember telling my careers advisers that I wanted to be a mechanic, but they always tried to push me into hairdressing as an alternative hands-on role. Luckily, I was stubborn.”

After leaving school at 16, Emma joined a security system company in her hometown Wigan, where she began a trade apprenticeship in electrical engineering.

She continued: “I must have handwritten around 100 letters to businesses asking for an apprenticeship, and finally, I landed my first job.

“Apprenticeships weren’t what they are now, and the theory side wasn’t relevant to what I was doing out on site, so I found it more valuable to learn from a team of mentors who had real-world experience.”

After two decades out on site, Emma became a coach at training provider Skills For Security, where she shared her knowledge with aspiring apprentices.

She said: “Having a dedicated fire and security course shows how far the industry has come, especially as I saw so many female apprentices walking through the classroom doors during my time teaching.

“What was even more interesting was that lot of women found the course organically, whereas I don’t think I would have ended up in engineering if it wasn’t for my family working in these roles. It’s safe to say lot has changed since I was starting out.

“I think it’s definitely becoming less out of the ordinary to see a woman doing this kind of role, so I hope that by continuing to be on site, I will show more girls it’s a career worth considering.”

Jackson Fire and Security employs more than 60 people across branches in North Wales, north west England, Yorkshire, Teesside, as well as Cambridgeshire, London, Kent, and Surrey.

Formed in 1991, the company has built a reputation for quality, reliability, and service, and is NSI gold-accredited for fire and security systems.