Workforce and skills: Womanufacturers

As we celebrate both International Women’s Day and National Apprenticeship Week in March TM goes talent spotting for some of UK manufacturing’s brightest young female stars. What led them to take the plunge into a traditionally male dominated arena and how are they getting on?

Beth Sherbourne
Beth Sherbourne

Beth Sherbourne

  • Age: 22
  • Company: MBDA
  • Position: Senior Procurement Officer
  • Qualifications: Studying for an MSc in Procurement, Logistics and Supply Chain Management
  • Awards: Won Higher Apprentice of the Year at the National Apprenticeship Awards 2012.

“My dad was a technology teacher and my grandfather worked at British Aerospace but I wasn’t interested in engineering at school. My college tutors were really against me taking an apprenticeship and wanted me to go to university. Now I’ve got my Bachelors, am working for my Masters and getting paid at the same time. My job at the moment is great I spend my time on multi-million pound contracts buying batteries for missiles. Winning Higher apprentice of the Year was a complete surprise.”

Charlotte Tingley
Charlotte Tingley

Charlotte Tingley

  • Age: 23
  • Company: BAE Systems
  • Position: Production Engineer specialising in helmet technology
  • Qualifications: Left school at 16 to take up BAE apprenticeship
  • Awards: Won the Institution of Engineering and Technology Young Woman Engineer of the Year Award 2012

“When I first started six years ago I was one of the first female apprentices for ten years but in the last three years we have taken a female apprentice every intake. In the six years I’ve been here everything is changing and there will come a time when it will be 50/50.The apprenticeship has given me the chance to meet David Cameron and give a conference speech at the Royal Opera House. I feel like I’m committed to BAE for life and my aim over the next few years is to move up to production manager.”

Emma Roberts
Emma Roberts

Emma Roberts

  • Age: 19
  • Company: Fairfield Control Systems
  • Position: Engineering Apprentice (5yr apprenticeship)
  • Qualifications: Studying mechanical engineering at college

“At the moment I am doing an HNC at Lincoln College which is a year and a half. After that I will do another year and a half for my HND and finally two years to get my full degree. When we are in the factory we get to try out different departments which is great. I was stuck over whether to go to university or not but I definitely don’t regret my decision. I really enjoy coming here and I don’t have the student debt which is a bonus.”

Melissa Lyon
Melissa Lyon

Melissa Lyon

  • Age: 19
  • Company: Terasaki
  • Position: Electrical Engineering Apprentice
  • Qualifications: Highers in Maths, English, Chemistry, Music

“I’d been studying psychology at university but decided it wasn’t for me. I saw the electrical engineering apprenticeship and it was the only thing that sparked my interest. At the moment we are getting rotated through different sections of the shop floor. I get to try loads of different things that I might not get if I was at a bigger company. Working on the shop floor has taught me how everything is put together. It’s great to know everything about the product that I’m putting out there if I end up in sales or marketing.”

Richards AshleighAshleigh Richards

Ashleigh Richards

  • Age: 22
  • Company: Siemens – Subsea Division
  • Position: Apprentice
  • Qualifications: Highers in Maths, English and Chemistry

“University wasn’t for me. I like the practical side of working more than sitting behind a desk. At the beginning I didn’t know a lot about engineering so I was scared about applying but you’re taught everything and your confidence grows as you feel competent. The apprenticeship has given me a career as well as taught me so many things that will help me throughout life.”

Nikki Cusworth
Nikki Cusworth

Nikki Cusworth

  • Age: 23
  • Company: Rolls-Royce
  • Position: Just completed a three year apprenticeship. Now doing a three year assembly and manufacturing leadership development scheme in Germany
  • Qualifications: Studying for a Masters in engineering business management at Warwick University

“I’m practical minded and getting life experience was more important to me than having an academic experience. The three year program that I’m on now is for the top two per cent of Rolls-Royce apprentices and they are funding my masters so I’m getting the best of both worlds. I was really apprehensive about there not being many other women doing the apprenticeship but as soon as I started I realised it didn’t matter. Everyone is passionate about engineering and manufacturing and that’s what’s important.”

Olivia Richards-Smith
Olivia Richards-Smith

Olivia Richards-Smith

  • Age: 17
  • Company: Sunseeker
  • Qualifications: Six months into a four year advanced apprenticeship in marine engineering

“I didn’t study engineering at school but I’d been interested in it since I was young because my dad is a mechanic. I’m on the first stage of my rotation around the business at the moment working in systems where I link up all the plumbing and electrics. Our first four weeks was a boot camp, which was brilliant because I learnt a lot in the first four weeks. It meant when I went into the factory I knew what to do right away.”

Holly Broadhurst
Holly Broadhurst

Holly Broadhurst

  • Age: 19
  • Company: Apprentice Design Engineer at JCB Compact Products
  • Position: Took the apprenticeship after taking A-levels at the JCB Academy
  • Qualifications: Studying for a BEng in Mechanical Engineering

“I always got told to go into engineering; being a girl you don’t automatically think you could go into engineering but it was perfect for me. Women have a perception that engineering is going to be this gritty, greasy job and it’s not like that at all.

If you asked me five years ago where I thought I would be at 19 I would have said university because that is what people drill into you. As it happens, I am at university, but through apprenticeship so I’m avoiding debt, getting a wage and a degree at the same time.”