Workforce and skills: the female of the species

Posted on 8 Mar 2012

Manufacturing may not always have been the best environment in which to see female professional talent shine. But times are changing, and many companies are now finding that their highest flying apprentices are among the gradually swelling ranks of young women entering the industry. TM highlights some of Britain’s finest female prodigies showcased during National Apprenticeship Week last month.

Beth Pickering – Airbus

Beth Pickering began her career at aircraft manufacturer Airbus in September 2006, after leaving school with 11 GCSEs.

She started out as an electrical craft apprentice, has since progressed through a higher level apprenticeship and will soon receive a NVQ Level 4 engineering leadership and foundation degree in aeronautical manufacturing. In 2009, Beth was recognised as the Airbus Apprentice of the Year.

Beth speaks of her love of product design lessons at school and how trips to the airport inspired her career choice. “Entering the working world as an apprentice seemed like the perfect solution,” she says.

“During my five years as an Airbus apprentice I have been given the opportunity to participate in a variety of amazing experiences,” Beth continues. “From the ‘Girls can do it’ project aimed at encouraging more women into engineering careers, to the Farnborough Air Show and Futures Day event.”

“I am already looking to further develop myself and my role. I plan to complete a BEng in aeronautical engineering and even progress to a Masters with an ultimate goal of achieving chartered status as a quality engineer.”

Charlotte Curr – Darron SBO

Charlotte Curr - Darron SBO
Charlotte Curr - Darron SBO

Charlotte Curr has been an apprentice at Darron SBO, a high precision provider of machining services for the Oil and Gas industry for over three years, starting her apprenticeship career in September 2008.

She was hired through the Semta Apprenticeship Service which manages the whole apprentice process – from advertising a role, assessing specific training needs, to securing funding, working with a recognised training provider and ensuring the quality of the programme. Securing 10 GCSE’s at school, Charlotte always showed promise in following an engineering career, particularly after achieving an A* in electronics.

Since the apprenticeship programme began, Charlotte has qualified with an NVQ Level 2 in Performing Engineering Operations, as well as various passes and distinctions at Rotherham College, including CNC Machining and Milling.

Charlotte says she was always intended for a career in manufacturing. “I knew from the beginning that an apprenticeship was a great decision. I decided I would like a job that would make me think and push me to work hard; working at Darron SBO has definitely fulfilled this.”

Charlotte also has a flare for IT and an intuitive skill with computers. “The CAD side of the industry is something else that really interests me,” she says and consequently she is hoping to advance her knowledge of CAD and CNC programming on taking up a permanent position with Darron SBO.

Charlotte expects to complete the apprenticeship programme in one to three years, and is studying for a foundation degree at Barnsley College and an NVQ Level 4.

Rachael Hoyle - BAE Systems
Rachael Hoyle - BAE Systems

Rachael Hoyle – BAE Systems

Rachael Hoyle has used her apprenticeship to help her employer and to help promote apprenticeships at home and around the world.

Rachael completed an advanced apprenticeship in aerospace engineering and secured a fulltime position in the structural engineering department at BAE Systems. She took full responsibility for running a crucial package of work that helped secure a big project for the company.

Rachael says she is confident the work she has done has helped to improve the overall image of apprenticeships among the next generation of school leavers, and has particularly promoted engineering as a path to success and excitement.

“If I’m honest, I didn’t always want to be an engineer or work with aircraft,” reveals Rachael. “And as my schooling drew to a close, I felt unsure of what the future held. I looked into apprenticeships and other courses, and what clinched the apprenticeship for me was the fact that I could go and begin a career, learning from people who are experts in their own right. I felt I could get involved in real work while applying my favourite subjects, like physics and maths.”

Rachael has now completed her advanced apprenticeship and followed this up by receiving a bachelor of engineering degree at Manchester Metropolitan University. She now works in Typhoon Export at the company.

Melissa Holmes – Tata Steel

Melissa Holmes - Tata Steel
Melissa Holmes - Tata Steel

Melissa Holmes began her career at metal-product manufacturer Tata Steel in September 2011 after leaving school with nine GCSE’s including Science and three A-Levels.

Her apprenticeship programme will run for three years, offering Melissa the opportunity to attend college to study for a BTEC in Engineering Metallurgy – the physical and chemical behavioural study of metals, qualifying by the end of the second year.

Melissa enjoyed studying science at school and focused on Biology at college. “It was during this time that I realised I would like to have a science-related career and the apprenticeship scheme at Tata Steel gave me a great opportunity to do this,” she says.

Given her own positive experience of the apprenticeship route and the manufacturing industry as a modern work environment Melissa is hopeful that more young women will follow in her footsteps. “I hope more females will consider a career in engineering and manufacturing and look to apprenticeship schemes as a great route to build confidence and develop knowledge in this exciting industry.”

Speaking of her own ambitions for the future Melissa says: “In the next few years I have ambitions to complete a full degree in Engineering Metallurgy, while working for Tata Steel in a technical role.”