International Women in Engineering Day takes place each year on 23rd June. The purpose of the day is to help raise the profile of women engineers and encourage more people to consider engineering as a profession for all.
This year we have focuse on two female apprentices, Rebecca and Micha.
Rebecca, Apprentice Mechanical Workshop Technician at University of York
Rebecca’s interest in understanding how things work began at a young age. When she was 14, she decided to have flying lessons at an airfield near to where she lives. She started volunteering and began to take an interest in the engineering side of aircrafts.
”I had flown a plane and seen what it was capable of, but that made me want to know what was underneath the skin. I wanted to understand how such an amazing machine actually worked.”
Rebecca had the opportunity to spend a week in the Biology Department at the Univeristy of York and her interest in engineering continued to grow.
Whilst Rebecca went to College to study an Engineering and Manufacturing Diploma, she didn’t get the practical knowledge that she felt she needed to pursue a career in engineering. When she saw that the University were looking to recruit an Apprentice Mechanical Workshop Technician she jumped at the chance.
Her role now includes developing her skills in welding, fabrication, milling, using computer controlled machines and operating the 3D printer.
”Our role is to help PhD students and staff because research equipment is so expensive. If they need a small part it may cost £600. We can often make this for just the cost of the materials, saving the department a lot of money.”
What would Rebecca say to other women like her who are thinking about applying for roles that are typically male dominated?
”If you enjoy something then don’t let the fact there aren’t a lot of other women put you off. At the University you aren’t treated any differently because you’re female and longer term I think more and more employers want to address gender imbalance putting us women in a strong position.”
Micha, Apprentice Assembly Technician at Unison Ltd
At Secondary School, Micha was directed towards hairdressing and cooking as part of her GCSEs, despite a strong desire to follow engineering as a career, and a good performance in science and mathematical subjects. Her father was a key role model in her passion for engineering, as he is a Maintenance Engineer, taking Micha with him to watch and learn ‘on the job’ at weekends and in school holidays. He encouraged her to seek the challenge and apply problem solving and analytical skills by trying Engineering in Post-16 education. She began with a Level 2 in Engineering, followed by a Level 3. The motivation was simply that she fely she needed to be better than her male counterparts when competing for jobs. At College it wasn’t easy, she was the only female on her course and initially lunchtimes were lonely, sitting by herself until she was accepted in her own right within the group.
Micha thinks that the best part of being an apprentice is that ”every day is different”. She has a strong desire to give back by encouraging other girls in primary school to be inspired and confident in choosing engineering subjects. Every Thursday, with Unison Ltd, she participates in an after-school club called Imagineering. Here she works with young people to make projects such as a compass, ‘a duck robot that walks’, or just simply showing them how a factory works. The advice she gives to other females is – ”Never give up and prove them wrong!”